Rhythm & Views

Smashing Pumpkins

After dropping the band seven years ago, Smashing Pumpkins' uber-frontman Billy Corgan hails a reunion and brings the group's drummer, Jimmy Chamberlin, along for the reprise. Purists may balk at the departure of guitarist James Iha and bassist D'Arcy Wretzky, but in the studio, the "band" was all about Corgan playing every single part but the drums.

Zeitgeist rocks as hard and as loud as just about anything the Pumpkins have done. Corgan bends the frets with his trademark ferocity, firing off slashing riffs with machine-gun regularity on cuts like "Doomsday Clock," "7 Shades of Black" and "Tarantula." The wailing guitars, crashing in waves of overdubs, should easily piss off your neighbor's neighbors. You expect the Pumpkins to serve up the bombast, and they deliver.

However, the best of Corgan's melodies have a sweetness that makes a tasty juxtaposition to the thrash cacophony, and Zeitgeist's sonic blast lacks a counterpoint that brought an intriguing depth to his best work.

Maybe the issue is just too much Billy, who set himself up for a tumble with the pretentious title and half-baked politicizing, like Corgan lamely calling for "revolution" on "United States."

Corgan's lyrics have never been the reason to buy a Pumpkins CD. Truth be told, Billy could be twining Walt Whitman-inspired couplets, but his spiteful snarl makes every vocal sound the same.

Ideally, the Pumpkins' hiatus would have led to a reinvigorated concept. Perhaps Billy sought safe harbor after his lukewarm 2005 solo disc, The Future Embrace. Though Zeitgeist clearly doesn't achieve the vaunted status of its title, it does showcase Corgan's indelible wail and shouldn't disappoint SP faithful.

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