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On “Quasar,” the first song off of the new Smashing Pumpkins album, the band comes out of the gate with teeth bare. There is ferocity in the drums and a fire in the guitars that has the hunger of youth and the drive of a band with something to prove. The riffs are immense, the drum fills attempt to outdo them, and Corgan’s evil cherub voice has a fierceness to it that calls to mind the rat in the cage that he sung about so many years ago. Backed into the corner of obscurity, this song displays a band trying to preserve a legacy tarnished by years of over-hyped mediocrity and public excesses of ego.

The album falters when the Pumpkins try to update themselves. Some of the hypnotic synth work on “Violet Rays” sounds like Wish You Were Here–era Pink Floyd — a little dated and unnecessary. The dance feel to “One Diamond, One Heart” sees a band slipping as they try to find footing on the edge of modernity. But there are flashes of what made the band such an important part of American rock and roll. When they sound like a four-piece band reminiscing Zeppelin with garage appetites, the Pumpkins prove that they can still be as relevant as they were two decades ago, even if it is just a glimpse.

  • Album: Oceania
  • Artist: Smashing Pumpkins
  • Label: EMI
  • Songs: (1) Quasar (2) Panopticon (3) The Celestials (4) Violet Rays (5) My Love Is Winter (6) One Diamond, One Heart (7) Pinwheels (8) Oceania (9) Pale Horse (10) The Chimera (11) Glissandra (12) Inkless (13) Wildflower
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