Smashing Pumpkins – Zeitgeist

Let’s not kid ourselves here. You’re reading this either because you are a diehard Smashing Pumpkins fan, or you came to see me rip this record a new one. Never one to make music on anything less than a grand scale, Billy Corgan’s new version of Smashing Pumpkins turns in a grand failure. It would be easy enough alone to dismiss Zeitgeist as a pathetic attempt to cash in on the legacy of one of the greatest rock groups of the 90’s. With the existence of several versions of the album only available at chain stores such as Best Buy and Target with exclusive bonus tracks not offered to indie retailers just adds insult to injury. Top it off with the fact that this is easily the worst record under the Smashing Pumpkins moniker, robbing 2000’s Machina/The Machines of God of that title. Finally, a personal note for good measure, I’ve found something to like about every Pumpkins album to date, with Siamese Dream being flawless in my opinion and the aforementioned Machina a low if sometimes fruitful valley in the band’s catalog. It almost seemed redeeming that the final Smashing Pumpkins record, Machina II/The Friends and Enemies of Modern Music was released online for free as a “fuck you” to a record label that had all but abandoned them. Plus, that record was far better than the first Machina which was released on an actual major label.

In an attempt to “bring the rock” back to Smashing Pumpkins, Billy Corgan and Jimmy Chamberlain have recorded an album of overblown drum fills and listless riffing with absolutely no hooks. Take one of the first singles, “Doomsday Clock,” for example. Not only does it practically seeth with the same soupy recording techniques that mired the first Machina album, it turns in a Tom Morello/Rage Against the Machine style toggle switch solo near the end. The result is laughably bad. Corgan’s voice is pushed so far up in the mix that his whiny and nasally vocals sound like insects buzzing in your ear. And it’s pretty much all downhill from there. The other single getting some radio airplay has been “Tarantula,” probably the only even somewhat halfway decent moment on the entire album. And I’m reaching pretty hard to give it that status. It sounds like a Smashing Pumpkins-by-numbers song being played by a second rate tribute band. It lacks something even the worst moments of the group have had up to this point: vision.

Still not enough to convince you to steer the fuck away from Zeitgeist? I’d gladly take Zwan over this any day of the week. This record is easily on par with Corgan’s solo record as one of the worst things he has ever done. Where The Future Embrace lacked a complimentary rhythm section to drive its wannabe stadium shoegaze, here Jimmy Chamberlain is a detriment to the record instead of the saving grace powerhouse he’s been in the past. Add to this that neither James Iha nor D’arcy wanted anything to do with this total turd. The cherry on top of this heaping pile is that its rife with fifth grade level political commentary. Your heart’s in the right place Billy, but you’ve failed to deliver your sentiments in any relevant or thoughtful way. Do I even need to mention the horrific cover art? At least it doesn’t bare The Future Embrace-style creepy shirtless Corgan pics. Nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing could have been a worse cover than that.

I can only hope that with all of the bad press Zeitgeist has been given that Billy Corgan will get the picture. We’d all love to see another Siamese Dream, sure. The chances of that are slim to none now and growing smaller every day, but it couldn’t hurt to hear Corgan try could it? At the very least it couldn’t be worse than Zeitgeist. Here’s to hoping.