Review Summary: Still shoddy vocally, but the instrumental work is fantastic and the songs are emotionally vibrant.
Corgan has a knack for ruining good things; with all the fame and fortune Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness
brought them, Corgan throws everyone one hell of a curveball with the awkwardly electronic/gothic Adore
, then releases the metal/wall of sound MACHINA: The Machines of God
, releases a bunch of extra tracks, and there went the Smashing Pumpkins as they break up. In 2007, Smashing Pumpkins released Zeitgeist
, the return-to-form album we've hoped for since the days of Adore, but Corgan splatters a whole load of ugly all over the vocal performances and really poor mixing, mixed with poor artwork and merchandise and the album is a very good album, but could have been much better.
So, it's 2008 and Corgan delivered an "acoustic" EP in American Gothic
. Clearly referring to Wood's classic painting, Corgan delivers a simplistic, short four-song EP of more A Perfect Circle-styled acoustic instruments. This isn't four really shallow, unproduced songs like Zeitgeist's title track B-side, this is four vibrant, multiple-personality tracks which one again shows a lot of potential in this reincarnation of Smashing Pumpkins. But the problem with this EP is the same problem Zeitgeist
suffered from. Billy Corgan's vocal performances. Don't tell me he doesn't have the pipes to sing like he used to-in concert he sang one of the most extreme dynamical vocal performances with Hummer
better than ever. He can still sing at a lull and can still scream like he does in the jam-fest Tales of a Scorched Earth
. Unfortunately, it sounds like Corgan was suffering from insomnia one night and began watching mind-numbing marathons of Night Court, and decided to record the vocals while lying on his couch, half awake, and petting his cat. He still strays far off key, he still roars indistinguishable vocal performances, and still sounds as if he's stretching the same note to every lyric in the song.
But it's not all bad-Corgan has finally dropped the gang-vocals from hell (think Bleeding the Orchid
), and majestically sings alone with the instrumental works. The instruments is where the EP shines. This is some of the most original and promising works Corgan's released since Rhinoceros
. Some songs have that dynamic acoustic touch that A Perfect Circle and Days of the New mastered, such as Pox
which creates a lush, gritty atmosphere very simply by laying it all out in front of you; that is if you can get past Corgan's "it's...a...paaaaahhhhhhhhhhhooooxxxxxxxx!".
Oh, yes, there is no exaggeration, listen to it for yourself. After submitting myself to thousands of listens to Zeitgeist
, I have learned to tolerate his vocals, and see the gold in the song. The Rose March
, another highly-touted residency song was effectively murdered on this EP. Killed in it's tracks, Corgan opens up with a strange, very odd and...well, um, feminine introduction. Chamberlin picks the song up at the end with some great drum beats, but it's still Corgan effectively murdering another great song.
Then there's what's great about this album in Again, Again, Again (The Crux)
. Again, Again, Again (The Crux) has a beat suspiciously familiar to Wound
, but sounds completely original and has the acoustically noisy sound that makes the song seem a lot like Siamese Dream
-era Pumpkins. Sunkissed
is the most atmospheric, laid-back song on the EP, and is a very melodic, atmospheric classic with touching lyrics and some impressive keyboard tinkering. Notice something, though" Corgan sings at his best on these tracks and successfully pulls off some great tracks worthy of being on previous classics. This is what I wanted Billy, and what most Pumpkins fans wanted. Good lyrical performances, less of the 'rock your balls off' style of Zeitgeist, and a more laid-back, atmospheric approach.
Just like the painting it was named after, American Gothic is a namely quiet, simply relaxing EP that should hold up and gleam with time if you can get past the vocal performances. There's some grandiose tracks here and seriously promising stuff here that, maybe, makes them seem for real to more people other than myself. It's not perfect, it's an EP, but it's worth your money on iTunes. Don't even bother getting me started on the poor marketing games Corgan is playing with his fans right now. Most likely if you didn't like Zeitgeist
but you want some good new stuff from the Pumpkins, you'll find it here.