In the five years that have passed since The Smashing Pumpkins’ last studio album, Zeitgeist, was released, there have been numerous line-up changes. Most obvious of course, being the departure of original drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, who was replaced by 22-year-old Mike Byrne, a long-time Pumpkins fan. Unlike on Zeitgeist, rhythm guitar and bass duties weren’t supplied by band leader Billy Corgan, but by Jeff Schroeder, who’s a somewhat veteran in the band, having been there since live shows in 2007, and Nicole Fiorentino, formerly of Spinerette and Veruca Salt fame, respectively. This therefore makes Oceania the first full band release for the Pumpkins, since 1995’s colossal double album, Mellon Collie & the Infinite Sadness, which incidentally, Corgan had claimed that Oceania would be their finest effort since then.
Over their long career, the Pumpkins have always fused together an amalgam of different genres and this release is no different, taking a trip through different stages of their career, from arena rock to prog to dream pop and electronica. It isn’t a completely new sound for the Pumpkins, a couple of songs could be found at home on earlier releases, but it is an attempt to make its own mark in the Pumpkins vault, rather than rehashing past glories.
Opener “Quasar” hits you early on, with its pounding drums and soaring arena-ready guitars, whilst the ensuing “Panopticon” continues where its predecessor left off. The new wave “Pinwheels” could well be the “1979” of the album, a beautiful dreamlike composition comprised of floaty guitars and atmospheric-synths. The title track is the Pumpkins at their grandest and most ambitious; an epic, evolving nine-minute journey through dreamy space rock, progressive rock, acoustic balladry and funky basslines. Ballads “My Love is Winter” and “Violet Rays” are melodically beautiful, whilst “The Chimera” and “Inkless” revisit the early Pumpkins, with their fuzzy, heavy progressive riffs. “Pale Horse” is a futuristic space rock odyssey. It does tail off towards the end with “Wildflower,” but with listening to the album all the way through, it is worth enduring.
Overall, it’s a great return from The Smashing Pumpkins, but it’s also a great prologue for them to continue off on their next release.