Sound — 8
In 2000 The Smashing Pumpkins broke up/went on hiatus whatever you want to call it, until around 2006, and since that time they haven't quite been The Smashing Pumpkins. With the release of "Oceania", while there are definitely some elements that don't feel like a Pumpkins album to me, it does come closer to what I want to hear from them. There is a little bit of synthesizer, which honestly I was initially very turned off by, but after more listens I've come to terms with it. It seems from snippets of interviews with Billy Corgan that he has been using more synthesizers in his music in order to create an atmosphere to lay his music over. Really, while it isn't necessarily what an old school Pumpkins fan wants to hear, it does work.
Billy Corgan has been the creative force behind the Pumpkins since their formation in 1988, to the point where you can follow Billy's own emotional landscape through the years from listening to his albums. While there have been some rocky lineup changes, especially since the split in 2000, the same vibe/sound is present even now, which further shows that Billy Corgan is ultimately Smashing Pumpkins. I'm not trying to take away from the contributions of the other members over time, as I absolutely respect what they've done, but from a creative standpoint this has always been Billy's creative vehicle. With "Oceania" there is an element present that hasn't been consistently present before, but it is hard to put your finger on. The choice of progressions, the melodies used, and the lyrical content seem to be very raw emotionally, and in that way the album is most similar to "Siamese Dream". The more I listen to the album the more I'm enjoying it as a whole, though at first listen only about half the songs had any pull on me whatsoever. This is definitely an album that is going to take a few listens to fully appreciate.
Lyrics — 9
Billy Corgan's voice has really remained unchanged for the past 20 years, and continues to be very raw and emotive. The lyrics to "Oceania" are as always some type of autobiographical testimony about something going on with Billy. Here is a sample of lyrics from the song "Pale Horse": "If I was to listen/ I would turn back/ give up all my reasons/ forgive up the past/ did you think I'd swallow that/ bearing the weight of the ceilings/ just to stop and ask/ thorazine (repeated several times)/ they give you this/ they take away that/ thorazine/ they'll be no other/ they'll be no long lost friends/ empty on the insides/ empty of the last pretends/ to stand by the feeling of the end". I'm pretty sure I may have gotten some of those lyrics a little off, but pretty close. For those who don't know, thorazine is a strong anti-psychotic medication that also is used as a strong sedative sometimes. Basically, if you've ever watched a movie with an asylum and they give the patient some type of syrup or shot that causes them to immediately zone out and become zombie-like, that is thorazine. "Pale Horse" is the creepiest song on the album.
As another example of the lyrics, here are some lyrics from "Panopticon" that I actually took from a website, "Oh don't make me wonder/ Life's never clear where choice is a gift/ to use and abuse/ to build on proof/ oh don't make me suffer/ Birds find the wind and wing/ rest in the shells I've designed/ run through the fields I've denied/ and stroll upon the years I'm alive/ there's a sun that shines in/ there's a world that stares out at me/ and all I refuse to please/ Breathe! Love is here/ Oh don't make me suffer/ To dash debonair where chaste is the wish." I wanted to post these lyrics as well to show that the album is not excessively "emo" as the lyrics from "Pale Horse" might insinuate.
Overall Impression — 8
My favorite songs on the album would absolutely have to be "Quasar", "Panopticon", and "The Chimera". I don't really dislike any songs on the album, but the song "Pale Horse" gives me a feeling of bad anxiety and is a downer to me at this point. Every time an artist releases a new album there is a two-sided danger either their fans will complain they didn't grow from album to album or they changed too much. I've been thinking about this a lot lately, and about my own contribution to this type of discussion. This is different than earlier Pumpkins albums. Not absolutely different, but part of gradual change they've been going through since the early 1990's. Yes, there is maybe more synthesizer than I would want to hear on a Pumpkins album, but maybe that is because I've romanticized "Siamese Dream" because of where I was at in my life when it came out so I don't want the sound to change too far from that. Really, when I put my nostalgic emotions behind me, this isn't a bad album and for the current musical environment it is outstanding.