I’ve been a fan of The Smashing Pumpkins (TSP) for over twenty years. It does my heart good to see them mounting (another) comeback, especially with most of the classic lineup. Their new double album “Cyr” released on November 27th through Sumerian Records, of all labels, and I’m finding it to be a great collection of songs.
I’ve discussed my thoughts on this band before, namely in my review of their 2018 LP “Shiny and Oh So Bright”. Yes, I consider them to be progressive in some ways, more so on some albums than on others. The band has been remarkably consistent throughout the years, regardless of what many say about Billy Corgan and things he has said and done. I’ve always respected them, and I’ve been “in” to them on and off through the years. The current lineup includes Billy Corgan on vocals, guitar, bass, synthesizers, and production, James Iha and Jeff Schroeder on guitars, and Jimmy Chamberlin on drums. You will also hear Katie Cole and Sierra Swan on backing vocals.
TSP has explored various genres over the years, and have always bent ideas in ways that few other artists would conceive. On this particular album, the band plays an ultra-melodic, groovy, synth-laden alt rock that feels like a fine balance between their early raw stage and some of their later more hopeful ideas. You will hear plenty of electronic loops and haunting rhythms, as there is something of a macabre tone that rears its head here and there. It’s an eerie, New Wave-centric style that has grown on me over the last couple weeks.
I should mention that Billy does a great job on vocals and synth, specifically. He sounds wonderful, even though he doesn’t really try to stretch much, and his synth melodies really make this album what it is. There are moments where James and Jeff really shine on guitar, and I appreciate those brief heavier minutes, but Jimmy’s drums are probably the real star just because he’s an amazing drummer. He hasn’t lost his ability to construct interesting, song-building beats that elevate everything around him.
“Cyr” is a double album with 20 tracks and 72 minutes of music. It’s not a long double album compared to some progressive rock/metal offerings out there, but it is still rather long and difficult to hear in one sitting. While none of the tracks are mediocre, I would say that some of them are definitely filler to some degree. I would also say that some of the songs could have been combined to great effect, mainly because some of the songs are difficult to distinguish from others because they have similar tones, styles, and rhythms. Some songs feel like they end before they really build any steam, and while that is okay by me, it does make me wonder if they could have been worked into another track to stunning results.
I honestly find this album to be rock solid overall, however. The band released some great singles, namely “The Colour of Love”, “Cyr”, “Ramona”, and “Wyttch”. All four songs are on point, and might actually represent some of the best moments on the album. “The Colour of Love” is a groovy opener that feels just right. The title track, too, has a catchy chorus that flutters about under an electronic shroud, and its central melody is very satisfying. “Ramona” is similar in that regard, though it tends to get a bit old after a while. “Wyttch”, however, is actually my favorite song on the album. I love the subtle creepiness and mystery that it conveys.
I have a few other favorites. “Anno Satana” has a great drive to it, with plenty of Sierra and Katie’s vocals to give it a nice flavor. I should mention that Sierra and Katie appear in various tracks, and they sound fantastic. “Purple Blood” has spunk to it with a hefty beat that instantly grabs my interest. I love the last half, where it transitions back and forth between fluid electronica and ambient Billy moments. “Telegenix” is probably my second favorite on the album, though. It hits hard in its hefty beat, and Billy’s synth is in full force on this one. It has one of the best choruses on the record, too. I would also point to “Schaudenfreud” and “Tyger, Tyger” as excellent, electronica-heavy tracks with plenty of personality.
“Cyr” is a great album, through and through. It’s not destined to be a classic, mind you, but it shows TSP on fire with plenty of new ideas. It certainly doesn’t sound like any of their other albums. While I applaud them for this, I think some of the songs could have been cut or combined with other tracks; some self-editing would have gone a long way here. While none of the tracks are particularly weak, many of them sound the same, and, even with the 72+ minute runtime, it still surprises me when the album ends, simply because the last track sounds quite like many of the other songs. Still, I’m happy to see TSP active and producing quality music.
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