Review Summary: There is brilliance still left in the bald man's head...
For ten years, Billy Corgan has confounded his dedicated fan base. Yes, I thought the MACHINA albums were good; but he’s just been a confusing mess ever since then. Zwan was alright, TheFutureEmbrace was terrible, Zeitgeist sucked with the exception of Tarantula and every other song Corgan has put out under the Smashing Pumpkins moniker since then hasn’t been good in any way, shape or form.
So, this Teargarden by Kaliedyscope project easily could be a failure. Volume 1 wasn’t great, the songs were pretty much horrible, production values were terrible, and Mike Byrne (Chamberlin’s replacement) sounded terribly out of place and about a mile behind the song. Corgan’s vocals were flat out horrific, too. So I’d just pretty much given up on Smashing Pumpkins.
Just as I was about to give up Freak came out. The song is so catchy. You’ll be cursing Corgan’s abilities to write a chorus line the whole day as you sing “Life is not a dream,” over and over again. But it wasn’t just the chorus—something else was great about this song. The guitars are layered and fuzzy just like the old days, but there is a lot of atmosphere in the song. It just feels like a true Pumpkins song. Something I haven’t felt…since, like, MACHINA.
Then Spangled came out. “Ah, that’s it. I give up,” I immediately re-iterated to myself. Thought I had finally had enough of this punishment that being a Pumpkins fan. Spangled, actually, isn’t bad, but between the keyboard and Corgan’s vocals it would be quite embarrassing to listen to around friends. I’d feel embarrassed to have that iPod, but, somehow, I feel like it really could fit right in Mellon Collie perfectly. There’s that Pumpkins atmosphere I have been desperately looking for.
But, nevermind the fact Spangled isn’t that bad—I ignored the Pumpkins existence for a good month or two. I missed out on the release of The Fellowship altogether, and stumbled across the release of Tom Tom. Then it all became obvious: Billy Corgan is a bigger douchebag than Rivers Cuomo. Why do I say that" Well, Weezer hasn’t been good in twenty years and haven’t shown an inkling of being aware on how to write a good song until Hurley. Corgan, however, seemed like a different person throughout the entire 90s—everything that man shat out was pure gold. 2000s hit and his output was good but not great until TheFutureEmbrace. Ever since then, Corgan has been the world’s worst striptease, showing off short glimpses of being great again with Tarantula and live songs like As Rome Burns or Gossamer. Well, is it too early to say Billy Corgan is back" Possibly, but it sure seems like it. Volume 2: The Solstice Bare is freaking incredible; mostly on the heels of the epic, atmospheric, emotional Tom Tom and the rousing The Fellowship.
The Fellowship is a gigantic middle finger to the haters and damn epic at that. Rousing as hell, jumping back and forth, mixing keyboards and that sorely missed distorted guitar tuning, Corgan’s vocals are buried in the mix so his singing deficiencies are hidden…it’s a promising start to the EP. Tom Tom is good enough to make any hater shut up. This is proof that the Pumpkins are, in fact, Billy Corgan by himself. Once again, Corgan’s vocals are hidden in the mix, there is a very…unusual, oriental, spacey atmosphere to the song and it’s catchy. The breakdowns scream “THIS IS A SMASHING PUMPKINS SONG!” In fact, it’s screams SP so much that I’m pretty sure if you took Corgan’s voice out of it, anyone would know this is the Pumpkins still. This also reiterates the fact that Corgan is once again penning creative music. I can’t point out what makes this song different than everything else (maybe his guitar riffs and tuning), but I’d probably point towards the breakdown as what makes it so obvious.
It’s hard to ramble about 4 songs incessantly, but if you haven’t taken notice of Corgan in years and are one of the ignorant spouting the “This isn’t the Smashing Pumpkins!” take heed of Teargarden by Kaliedyscope. Somehow, Corgan is regaining cultural relevance and media hype. This isn’t a side effect of his bald head—this is a side effect of him making great songs. Three out of the four songs on here could be massive singles. The Smashing Pumpkins have returned, and it’s been a long decade.