Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Review of "Zeitgeist" (2007)

Artist: The Halfing Pumpkins, Zw, JC/BC...I mean, the Smashing Pumpkins.
Album: Zeitgeist
Verdict: Mostly Machina meets (Brian) May.

If I've learned anything from Billy Corgan, it's this: You don't have to be the strongest vocalist, as long as you do two things: (1) have an iconic voice, and (2) kick ass on the guitar. For better or for worse, ain't nobody sings like Corgan. They can try, but they just end up sounding less. (The same goes for with all the Vedderesque baritones in the mid- to late-90s, and the Staley clones earlier this decade...they tried, they should've tried something else.)

I've already heard the first two singles - "Tarantula" and "Doomsday Clock" - and I like those two songs (excellent single choice). They've either instantly struck a chord with the fanboy in me ("Tarantula") or grew on me ("Doomsday Clock"). There's a lot of Machina in the guitar tone, due to the half-step down and lower tuning. (Standard tuning is partly why the Zwan album sounded a lot like Gish and Siamese Dream.) I'll have to let it grow on me.

"Starz" instantly struck a chord with me. Yes, that's "Starz" with a "z." It sounds like artistic growth to me...in a good direction. At first, it has a "Tonight, Tonight" vibe, but it grows into something more than that. And Jimmy Chamberlin does a DRUM SOLO on this one (as is his right, being elevated to Producer status).

The requisite Corgan epic, "United States" is in the same league as Machina's "Glass and the Ghost Children," which is to say it's not as strong as "Porcelina of the Vast Oceans" or "Mary Star of the Sea." Those are THE Corgan epics, or should I say, Corgan/Chamberlin epics.

The second half fares better than the first half. "Bring the Light" and "Come On (Let's Go)" are both instantly impressive. "For God and Country" sounds like Depeche Mode, and "Pomp and Circumstances" channels Queen, thanks to "Bohemian Rhapsody" co-producer Roy Thomas Baker.

In fact, there's a lot of Queen-meets-Machina in the guitar tones and harmonies (guitar leads and vocals). Corgan tries his best oohs and aahs on this album. Noticably missing are Corgan screams, but that's pretty much been absent - as far as new compositions go - for the past decade or so (Mellon Collie). It's more of a guitar-and-drums album...as were most Pumpkins albums (other than Adore).

In short, other than the two singles and the three songs that instantly won me over (which I've typed in bold), I'll let the rest of the album grow on me.

Anyway, don't take my word for it. Listen to the entire album one week before it is released at AOL's Spinner: http://music.aol.com/songs/new_releases_full_cds.

"Starz" (Live):

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