Smashing Pumpkins Shiny and Oh So Bright Vol. 1 / LP: No Past. No Future. No Sun.

Smashing Pumpkins Shiny and Oh So Bright Vol. 1 / LP: No Past. No Future. No Sun.
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In true Pumpkins fashion, Shiny and Oh So Bright Vol. 1 defies expectations. Billed as a reunion album, with original members Jimmy Chamberlin and James Iha back in the fold, the nostalgically-inclined were hoping for a "return to form." This is not that. Circling back to repeat is antithetical to the core spirit of the world's greatest alt-rock band.
 
Instead this is a damn good modern classic rock album, one that evokes elements of what made us fall in love with Billy Corgan's vision and his chemistry with his incredibly talented bandmates in the first place, while embracing all of the growth and changes a songwriter of his age and experience has undergone.
 
These elder statesmen of a profound musical revolution aren't trying to pose as the energetic sonic shit-disturbers of their youth on this new collection. And with three highly skilled guitarists in the lineup now (kudos for putting that musical chemistry first and keeping essential Pumpkins 2.0 member Jeff Schroeder in the group), Shiny isn't jammed full of pyrotechnic six-string duelling. Nor is it used as an excuse to let Jimmy Chamberlin give drum geeks absurd fills to salivate over on every track. That's not to say that the playing is subdued on the album — it positively rips when it wants to — but all that virtuosity is deployed in the service of songs that are crafted with consummate  sophistication around some of the best vocal performances of Billy Corgan's career.
 
That's Shiny And Oh So Bright's secret weapon: Corgan's voice. He attacks his delectable melodies with a confidence, power and control that's grown tremendously over the years. It's most evident on softer pieces like the gorgeous "With Sympathy" and new future Pumpkins classic "Silvery Sometimes (Ghosts)" but the throaty vocals on "Marchin' On" (which is the most gloriously thrashing number the band have released since Zeitgeist) give the track an awesome classic metal edge of the sort that wouldn't have been possible in earlier days.
 
At only eight tracks, it's the shortest Smashing Pumpkins full-length and it feels less grandiose than most of their work simply due to that brevity, which makes it harder to measure against their other LPs — although it easily blows the last album out of the water and is more immediately catchy than Zeitgeist, partly due to its conciseness. That Corgan and whatever company he keeps continue to put out music of such quality after such a long time is astounding, but it's especially great to hear Chamberlin's unmatched drumming and Iha's distinct guitar phrasing bringing out the best in the songs again.
 
Pumpkins fans have a lot to be excited about with Shiny and Oh So Bright Vol: 1 but perhaps the most exciting part of the new album is the inclusion of "Vol 1" in the title. We're ready for more, please. (Napalm)