The Pumpkins are back! Billy Corgan and Jimmy Chamberlin rose from the ashes of their former selves and put together an incredible rock album that gets better with every listen.
The release of Zeitgeist follows a unique marketing build-up and blitz designed to restore interest in a 7-year defunct band and reward long-time fans with a hands-on almost jam band network. First, the release of a full page ad/ plea from Billy in the Chicago Tribune declaring their resurrection, then a home page on their website that slowly leaked information about the band; They‚Äôre in the studio recording, the new line-up, the album name, album release date, the release of the first single, ‚ÄúTarantula,‚Äù album cover art, the announcement of their return show at Le Grand Rex in Paris. Coinciding with the return show is the release of their interactive, fan content-driven website. They followed the Paris show with a series of festivals throughout Europe and came home to hold two historic residencies. The first is nine sold-out shows at The Orange Peel in Asheville, North Carolina and then thirteen sold-out shows in San Francisco‚Äôs famous Filmore. In between the residencies the band managed to play Live Earth, bookend Late Night with David Letterman the Monday and Friday of the week Zeitgeist was released, and play a monstrous CD release show in D.C. Impressive.
The hype begins to pay off. Demand from radio for ‚ÄúTarantula‚Äù is so great the song must be released early to prevent ripping. ‚ÄúDoomsday Clock‚Äù the first track on the album makes it onto the Transformers soundtrack. Finally, the release of Zeitgeist, five versions to be exact. Depending on where the album is purchased (Targ√©, iTunes, etc.) it will be a different color, each having different bonus tracks.
Now, is Zeitgeist worth it? One word: Hell Yeah! The thunderous drum intro on ‚ÄúDoomsday Clock‚Äù surges Zeitgeist out of the starting gate. A searing wall of guitar soon follows adding fury and power to Billy‚Äôs dire predictions.
‚Äú7 Shades of Black‚Äù continues driving the revamped Pumpkin assault. One that is closer to their live sound than previous recordings with a raw and direct attack (The continuous rolling flood of drums throughout the 10 minute ‚ÄúUnited States‚Äù was recorded in one take). At the same time, it‚Äôs still Billy, for every moment it seems like two rock titans jamming in a garage, (Billy and Jimmy recorded everything, much like all the previous work) there are meticulous flashes and flurries of intense guitar production: layers of notes adrift on waves of distortion and delay.
‚ÄúBleeding the Orchid,‚Äù on first listen, was where the album lost steam. I noted complaints by friends and on message boards about production values and Billy‚Äôs voice being too far out in front and ‚ÄúBleeding‚Äù showcased this but with more listens the song grew. The architecture shone through as well crafted and Billy‚Äôs voice, although unnaturally clear, seems tame and even huskier with age. Then, ‚ÄúThat‚Äôs the Way (My Love Is)‚Äù delivers a sweet groovin‚Äô Zwan revisit.
On lyrical merit alone, Billy is back as strong as ever. The great thing about SP songs is when one actually takes the time to read the lyrics, they realize what they were singing is not at all what he was saying. “Tarantula”, a brutal, unforgiving four minute rock song with Pumpkin dazzle and a quick tease of their old heavy/slow/heavy formula (and several guitar solos ‚Äì Sweet) is a call to fans and critics of their arrival as well as a castigation of former band mates for pissing on their parade. I bet you didn‚Äôt know the last line of that song is, ‚ÄúIf it‚Äôs white hot soul they want/ A black heart they‚Äôll get‚Äù ‚Äì I love that shit!
Furthermore, this album takes on seemingly spiritual and political messages throughout, opposed to earlier more self-absorbed themes. I feel a coming age/ I feel a dawn in me/ A certain sun keeps risin‚Äô/ On my beliefs/ In You, Billy croons on ‚ÄúThat‚Äôs the Way‚Äù – what seems like a rockin‚Äô love song – and in United States he howls ‚ÄúFreedom shines the light ahead/ I‚Äôll lead the last charge to bed/ I said my last rites/ I don‚Äôt have to run scared no more/ Fight/ I wanna fight.
Songs like ‚ÄúUnited States,‚Äù ‚ÄúDoomsday Clock,‚Äù and ‚ÄúFor God and Country‚Äù portray Billy‚Äôs love of the ole U.S. of A as well as fear for where it‚Äôs heading. This is something ‚Äì I firmly believe – culled directly from Billy‚Äôs watching of a viral internet movie called ‚ÄúZeitgeist‚Äù and trying to direct the public‚Äôs attention towards it.
Many ‚Äúfans‚Äù are complaining about the absence of James and D‚Äôarcy. Come on! This means they never listened to the music beyond watching videos and reading CD jackets. The music is all Billy and Jimmy. James Iha didn‚Äôt even come into his own as a solid tonal manipulator and soloist until the last tour and his few songs are cute, but embarrassing when held up to the rest of the catalog. In the end, all those two did was complain that the band rocked too hard and Billy, the guy who brought them this fame and acclaim, is a jerk ‚Äì Get lost. If the shows in Asheville are any indication of the new band – 3+ hours of pummeling rock that, at times, overwhelmed the crowd and the venue, then godspeed little Pumpkins.
Zeitgeist is produced almost entirely by Corgan and Chamberlin.¬† Terry Date (Soundgarden, Pantera) assisted on a few numbers, the charged ‚ÄúCome on Let‚Äôs Go,‚Äù and ‚ÄúThat‚Äôs the Way‚Ä¶‚Äù as well as Roy Thomas Baker (Queen) on two of the record‚Äôs highlights ‚ÄúStarz,‚Äù and ‚ÄúBring the Light.‚Äù
The guitar is classic Pumpkins without sounding retread, the drums are Jimmy‚Äôs standard all-out assault of precision and fury that drives the music like an engine without running over it, and the lyrics, sublime, even changing how you feel about songs you think you dislike. In the end they crafted another excellent rock album that sounds like the Pumpkins, yet unlike any preceding albums, and it is miles above the ‚Äúcompetition.‚Äù What more do you want, Nickelback?
“Doomsday Clock” and “Lucky 13″ recorded at The Fox Theatre in Atlanta 11.16.2007