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Zeitgest’ a smashing example of success

Tae Andrews | Monday, September 3, 2007

Zeitgeist, (n.) the general intellectual, moral and cultural climate of an era. In other words, the word “zeitgeist” means the spirit of the times. If “Zeitgeist,” the latest album from the newly-reformed Smashing Pumpkins, is indeed the spirit of these times, what a dark and turbulent age we live in.

“Zeitgeist” features a lot of political turmoil, dissent, disquiet and discontent, plus a slew of heavy guitars and slamming drum beats. The Pumpkins have crafted a moody, brooding album which conveys the malaise and mistrust of our times in the light of the current political landscape. On an album featuring tracks with such names as the apocalyptic “Doomsday Clock,” “United States,” “For God and Country” and “Pomp and Circumstances,” there can be no mistaking the highly charged political rhetoric splashed across all 13 tracks of “Zeitgeist.”

Perhaps singer and frontman extraordinaire Billy Corgan and Co. would have been better off releasing this album a decade earlier, when they could actually lay claim to existing as one of the signature alternative sounds of the 1990s. Beyond just the nature of the album, there’s the issue of whether or not these latest hard rockers are, in fact, the Smashing Pumpkins.

The band exploded onto the American music scene with the hit double album “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.” The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Charts in October of 1995. From there the Smashing Pumpkins went on to sell over 18 million albums and were one of the most popular and best-selling bands of the decade.

Unfortunately, the alternative band broke up in 2000, leaving the Pumpkins in rotting shards.

The new Smashing Pumpkins might be better named The Smashed Pumpkins, as the new Pumpkins consist of only singer and guitarist Billy Corgan and drummer Jimmy Chamberlin. Original band members guitarist/vocalist James Iha and bassist/vocalist D’arcy Wretzky declined to help reform the Smashing Pumpkins for another go-around, so these new Pumpkins feature a much different, stripped-down sound, somewhat akin in composition if not nature to the guitar-and-drums-only musical approach of The White Stripes.

That being said, the Smashing Pumpkins are still the Smashing Pumpkins, replete with the inimitable Billy Corgan, whose shaved, pale gourd and somewhat screechy singing voice retain very much their same flair from years of Pumpkins past. The eclectic and strong-willed frontman, for better or worse, remains very much the creative force and the man behind the music for the band, and the Pumpkins still exist today mainly due to his stubbornness and unwillingness to give up.

The band still has its signature sound and hard-rocking, rebellious nature, which will inspire large amounts of head-banging and fist-pumping from its listeners. The first single “Tarantula,” in particular, has a fresh, edgy sound and features a catchy guitar romp. The melancholy “That’s the Way (My Love Is)” shows a rare glimpse of Billy Corgan’s softer side and is vaguely reminiscent of the earlier Pumpkins smash single “1979.” The second single off the album, “Doomsday Clock,” is every bit at foreboding and doom-and-gloomy as you’d expect it to be.

The Smashing Pumpkins, despite their many previous successes and dwindling numbers, have put a hungry, aggressive touch on “Zeitgeist” that smacks not of has-been rock star hacks trying to reclaim previous glory, but rather of an up-and-coming, still-trying-to-make-it garage band. The Smashing Pumpkins have returned, and they paint a spirited, if dark, picture of our times with “Zeitgeist.”