Smashing once again

By Jessica Cabe

The Smashing Pumpkins was one of the most influential and popular alternative rock bands of the ’90s, but since they disbanded in 2000, frontman Billy Corgan has seemed to do no right.

Fans were underwhelmed by the coldhearted, poorly mixed comeback album, “Zeitgeist,” and everything after that release has been equally disappointing.

The Pumpkins are in the midst of releasing “Teargarden by Kaleidyscope,” a massive 44-song collection available for free on the band’s website. “Oceania” is an album within “Teargareden,” according to Corgan, who said he decided he wanted to make another record rather than release one song at a time.

“Oceania” streamed for free on iTunes last week and is available to buy today.

“Oceania” is the best thing Corgan has released since “Machina,” the Pumpkins’ last album before the split. His voice has the emotion that was missing in “Zeitgeist,” but it isn’t as grating as it was in the mid ’90s. The guitar sound is awe-inspiring. It’s as if Corgan took the tones from “Siamese Dream,” “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness” and the better parts of “Zeitgeist” and played them under water.

The album opens with “Quasar,” which fades in from nothing and turns into a powerful rock and roll song with driving drums and a memorable guitar riff. Billy crying out to multiple deities is sure to confuse most listeners, but the music makes any awkward lyrics nearly irrelevant.

Next up is “Panopticon,” another heavier track with the classic loud-soft-loud dynamics the Pumpkins were known for in the early ’90s.

Other standouts include “The Celestials,” a classic Pumpkins song with a beautiful melody and heartfelt lyrics; “Violet Rays,” an eerie track of desperation and loneliness, “My Love is Winter,” a catchy pop-rock tune with beautiful backing vocals from bassist Nicole Fiorentino; “Oceania,” the token epic track spanning over eight minutes and carrying listeners through three movements; and “Inkless,” which instantly calls 1993’s “Hummer” to mind.

While Corgan and his bandmates have not reverted to past successes by making this album, they have recaptured a certain sound and spirit that has been missing for over a decade. By allowing the other members to contribute to the songwriting and recording processes, Corgan has rejuvenated the band and created something that truly sounds like the Smashing Pumpkins. What a breath of fresh, ocean air.