Review Summary: An unexciting beginning for what seems like a very bloated project.
It’s debatable whether this should be known as the product of the Smashing Pumpkins, or as Billy Corgan’s new solo project. No matter what it is, it will always be the Smashing Pumpkins to me, not for fan-related reasons (I’m a casual listener), but for aesthetic ones. If someone says to me that Zeitgeist was just Billy whoring out the Smashing Pumpkins name as his last desperate act to stay relevant, well, then he was whoring it on Siamese Dream too, since he wrote, produced, and did the whole damn thing himself. The presence of James Iha and D’Arcy (and Jim Chamberlain now) does not make or break the Smashing Pumpkins name; these albums live or die by Billy Corgan’s songwriting alone.
Here we have the first EP of Teargarden by Kaleidyscope (terrible name, by the way), the first set of songs for a 44 track album that will be released for free on the internet over the next few years, and every once in awhile we get a nice little complimentary EP available in stores. This particular volume was recently released, and here are my thoughts.
I’ve always enjoyed the Smashing Pumpkins to a certain extent and consider Billy Corgan to be a fine songwriter, as he’s created some masterpieces over the years. I disliked Zeitgeist, I’ll admit it, however few and far between there were some great songs that showed that Billy still had some of that old songwriting still left in him. I don’t want to come across as someone who’s stuck in the year 1995 when Mellon Collie was all the rage, so as a result, “Teargarden… Vol. 1” I’m simply half and half on. There are 2 decent songs that give me hope for the project, and show that Billy can still write a good tune. The other 2 are musical failures in every sense of the word, and reinforce an unfortunate belief I have that this 44 song “album” is going to be a waste of resources and talent.
“Widow Wake My Mind” and “Astral Planes”, to simply put, are total crap. There’s nothing to these songs at all, and to say they will remind you of the worst moments of Zeitgeist (assuming you didn’t like that CD, of course) would be a severe understatement. Completely unmemorable rock and roll, not catchy or memorable in the least, in fact it sounds like Billy is running on fumes for these. “Widow…” is by far the worst offender, and completely unworthy of the Smashing Pumpkins name, let alone Billy Corgan’s . It’s incredibly lazy with no amount of effort put into the riffs, drumming, singing, etc. Simply a complete throwaway song, one that sounds like a leftover demo that wasn’t good enough to be released as a b-side. To be honest, I wouldn’t hesitate to call these probably two of the worst songs ever conceived under the Smashing Pumpkins name. Has Billy exhausted his creativity? Well not completely…
The opening track, “A Song For A Son”, is a groovy little one that actually had me thinking, “well damn, this might be pretty good”. It’s a stab at an epic classic rock song in the vein of Led Zeppelin and Jethro Tull, and it’s surprisingly successful. The opening piano sounds like something off of Adore, before the drums and guitars kick in. The extended solo is pretty awesome, and demonstrates Billy’s excellent ability and talent at guitar. Top that off with some story minded lyrics and airy flutes, and you have a winner. Classic rock fans take note.
The other track rounding out this EP is “A Stitch In Time”, an acoustic pop song. This is another good song that’s actually more reminiscent of Billy’s work on Zwan, as it’s fairly bouncy and upbeat, on top of being extremely catchy. There are xylophones and sitars that creep up in the background; on overall enjoyable song that would lead you to believe Billy still knows his way around a guitar chord. My one gripe is that it can be a little repetitive, but really it’s just a likeable song, and I find myself listening to it quite often.
Overall, you can’t help but feel disappointed in a way. There are only four songs, and Billy’s intention is to release the songs over the internet to give listeners a chance to check out the songs “before they dismiss the album”. Note to Billy: When the song is released doesn’t matter, it’s the songs themselves that does. If Volume 1 is any indication, there will be specks of good highlights, but for the most part, I don’t have too much faith in this project.
Is Volume 1 a failure? No. But it doesn't exactly inspire excitement for another 40 songs to sift through over a significant portion of your life.