The Smashing Pumpkins – Oceania

Mark E. Smith of The Fall once had this quote about the ever revolving cast of his band “If it’s me and your grandma on bongos, it’s The Fall.” Throughout history bands have continued on as various members have left (or were fired) until its only the lead singer with basically a new band backing them up. I’ve enjoyed bands that have carried on under these circumstances and was pleasantly surprised when The Smashing Pumpkins reunited in the mid 00’s (minus D’arcy and James Iha). I’m going to be honest – I really enjoyed their 2007 comeback album Zeitgeist almost all the way through. Jimmy Chamberlain anchored down the drums as in the old days, and it was a (mostly) amazing return to glory.

Jimmy Chamberlain left the band in 2009 and we were facing uncharted territory within Pumpkins land. Or were we? Jimmy Chamberlain wasn’t on the bands 1998 masterpiece Adore as he was briefly kicked out due to drug abuse issues. That particular album still reigns supreme as my favorite album by The Smashing Pumpkins and will be featured on my Flashback Fridays series at some point. It featured the classic Pumpkins sound married to electronics and more textured pieces – in other words, a delight for my ears. Could Jimmy’s departure signal a new direction for Billy Corgan and his merry band of Smashing Pumpkins? (none of this is a knock on Jimmy Chamberlain who has rightfully earned his reputation as one of Rock n Roll’s greatest drummers)

True to Corgan’s more artistic impulses, a truly ambitious undertaking was announced – a 44 song cycle entitled Teargarden by Kaleidyscope. The intent when the project started was to release the songs as they were made – in limited edition packages and eventually as free downloads. The 1st two releases from the concept featured songs that were more psychedelic than anything the band had released in ages. They were also the strongest batch of songs since the album Machina II: The Friends & Enemies of Modern Music.

Oceania has been called “an album within an album” and is the 3rd official release from the Teargarden project. How does it stack up? Quite frankly, THIS is the album Billy Corgan has threatened to make for years. It is experimental, pop, rock, psychedelic, alternative….oh hell, I ran out of words to describe it. The music brings to mind almost every phase of The Smashing Pumpkins and is spun into something modern and beautiful. Part of the attraction of this record is just how unexpected it is to receive a full length modern masterpiece from Billy Corgan & company in 2012.

Cast off your indecision….(a few highlights)

The Celestials has an uplifting vibe, just Billy & acoustic guitars with warm synth tones in the background for the first minute or so. A post-punk bass kicks in followed by the full band, pushing the song towards classic status. Noisy guitars with a very strong melody. Classic Pumpkins. Key lyrics:

Everything I want is free
‘Til the end
‘Til the end
‘Til the end
I’m gonna love you 101 percent
I’m gonna love you ’til this ends

Oceania a prog-rock vibe with this song – in fact, it may be the proggiest (not sure if that is a word, actually) track The Smashing Pumpkins have laid to tape. Also one of the finest songs on the record. Guitars and synths bring to mind The Cure from their early 80’s trio of masterpieces (17 Seconds – Faith – Pornography) – at least for the first few minutes. It moves into an alt-rock from the 90’s vibe, before all the music fades away and we are left with piano (?) keys followed by acoustic guitar, Corgan emotionally singing over top of that. It then segues into another movement, those glorious synths returning – giving the proceedings an epic feeling. Singing becomes a dirge-like chant with Corgan chanting “Try the way”. Abrasive guitar solo 7 minutes in, giving this portion of the song its Pink Floyd moment. Another guitar solo over top of those guitar sounds at the 8:30 mark moving into a metal phase. The entire thing fades out – perfection. Key lyrics:

Cast off your indecision
Face to face we breathe
Try the way
Cast off your indecision
Face to face we breathe

Glissandra this song brings to mind the band from their Siamese Dream era. Bass is absolutely stunning on this track, surrounded by white noise, melodic guitars, and Billy Corgan chanting “I used to know”. Easily earns its way into the deep category known as “Smashing Pumpkins classics”. Key lyrics:

Fallen lovers and useless friends
Must you glare?
A life uncovers our unions pulled by threadbare
Pleasure taps it’s vein

I’ve been hungry and I’ve been full
Molten at the spoke
I used to know what for
I used to know what for

Take it from me – all of the positive press this album is receiving is true. It is worth your time and attention. It shows hints of what the band has done in the past – filtered through the eyes of experience and a more positive world view. I’m looking forward to what comes next for The Smashing Pumpkins in the continuing saga of the Teargarden by Kaleidyscope project.

Verdict: Celestial tunes in abundance

For Fans of: Nine Inch Nails, Nirvana, Neil Young, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, The Cure


01. Quasar
02. Panopticon
03. The Celestials
04. Violet Rays
05. My Love Is Winter
06. One Diamond, One Heart
07. Pinwheels
08. Oceania
09. Pale Horse
10. The Chimera
11. Glissandra
12. Inkless
13. Wildflower

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