Rock! Smashing Pumpkins Zeitgeist brings back angry Billy

This week, The Smashing Pumpkins released “Zeitgeist”, their first album of consequence since 2000.  Their “Siamese Dream” album is among my favorite albums of all time, and certainly among the cream of the 90’s grunge movement.  Their later work is fine by me, but trended toward more electronic influence and mellower songs, marking a slight downward trend (to me).

The new album, Zeitgeist, is half of an awesome album.  Which half is awesome apparently depends on your Pumpkins history.  “Cherub Rock”, “Bullet with Butterfly Wings”, “Rocket”, and “Zero” are among my favorite Pumpkins songs, so the thunderous first half of the album is right up my alley.  From reviews I’ve seen, fans of “Disarm”, “1979”, “Perfect”, “Thirty Three”, etc. seem to enjoy the latter half of the album more.  People who never liked band still won’t, and folks who are fixated on the current lineup of the band (only half of the original lineup returns) will hate it, because lead singer Billy Corgan seems to be an odd and contentious dude.

The return of the angry Pumpkins is awesome.  Thick, layered, angry, driving guitars move the songs along, and Jimmy Chamberlin’s intricate, expressive drumming may be more prominent and important to the music than ever.  From the massive opening track, “Doomsday Clock” to the first half of track 7, “United States”, the intensity and quality of the songs should send all the whiny, derivative, emo bands running for the exits (I can only hope).  Radio and mp3s don’t do these songs justice – listen to them on big speakers at high volume.  “United States” clocks in at almost 10 minutes long, and signals the album’s shift into music for patient people – ballads,  jam tracks, etc.  They’re not bad, not a departure from the band’s sound – they’re just not the Pumpkins that appeal to me.

But the first half of the album is entirely worth it.