November 13, 2018 The Smashing Pumpkins – Shiny and Oh So Bright, Vol. 1 / LP: No Past. No Future. No Sun. (Album Review)
Formed in 1988, in Chicago, Illinois, USA, by Billy Corgan (vocals, guitar), James Iha (guitar), D’Arcy Wretzky (bass), and Jimmy Chamberlin (drums), The Smashing Pumpkins were one of the forerunners of Alternative Rock during the genre’s 1990s phase. In the band’s rather patchy and volatile career, Bandleader Corgan has taken its music to stellar heights and a kaleidoscope of styles and sound. To date, The Smashing Pumpkins have nine studio albums on primarily Corgan’s sleeves, who remains the band’s nucleus: from the seminal debut, 1991’s Gish; 1993’s multi-platinum Siamese Dream; 1995’s highly ambitious double-album affair, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness; to the most recent one, 2014’s Monuments to an Elegy.
Starting in the early 2000s, The Smashing Pumpkins were reduced to practically only the duo of Corgan and Chamberlin with a revolving cast of session musicians. However, in 2016, Iha began performing again with the band. Then early this year, it was announced that the three original members plus Jeff Schroeder (guitar) are now the official members. A string of successful reunion concerts ensued, and finally, The Smashing Pumpkins are ready to unleash their much-awaited, new album.
Titled Shiny and Oh So Bright, Vol. 1 / LP: No Past. No Future. No Sun., The Smashing Pumpkins’ tenth effort is scheduled to come out on Friday, November 16, 2018, on Napalm Records. Straightaway, Corgan and the rest of the re-energized, shiny and bright Pumpkins take their listeners back to the brilliant moments of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness by opening Shiny and Oh So Bright with the melodramatic, soulful, string-laden, New Romantic sparkle of “Knights of Malta.” Another flare of inspired nostalgia comes next in the form of “Silvery Sometimes (Ghosts)” – the album’s second single, which exudes a whiff of the band’s equally melancholic ’90s New Wave classic “1979.” Following flawlessly in a similar heartbeat and sentiment is the album’s highlight – “Travels,” which proves that Corgan has not lost his flair for melody and Classical-influenced arrangement and instrumentation.
A sudden change of mood, the Grunge/Shoegaze combo “Solara” – the album’s first single – is what “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” is to Mellon Collie—draining, flaming, raging… seething with restraint fury, like a rat in a cage. Albeit still in a fuzzy predisposition, The Smashing Pumpkins but then subtly slow down the tempo with the piano-adorned “Alienation;” Iha’s trademark slashing guitar blazes intensely in this track. As if prodding Chamberlin to speed up his pounding while he cranks up his distortion to maximum level, Iha then leads his comrades to launching into the breakneck assault of “Marchin’ On.”
The penultimate track, “With Sympathy” then revisits the soft spot and minimal Alternative Rock balladry of The Smashing Pumpkins. Finally, Corgan, Iha, Chamberlin, and Schroeder finish their glowing new album with the big bang of the groove-driven “Seek and You Shall Destroy.”
In fairness with The Smashing Pumpkins, the proper albums that they have already released in the current decade—2012’s Oceania and Monuments to an Elegy—also had their shining moments. However, the forthcoming Shiny and Oh So Bright is, sonically and stylistically considering, a long cut above these immediate predecessors. It is a matrimony of The Smashing Pumpkins’ golden era and current resurgence—melodic and nostalgic as “1979” yet intense and raging like “Bullet with Butterfly Wings.” Cryptic Rock gives Shiny and Oh So Bright, Vol. 1 / LP: No Past. No Future. No Sun. 4 out of 5 stars.