Shiny And Oh So Bright, Vol. 1: No Past. No Future. No Sun.

Smashing Pumpkins

Napalm, 2018

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


The big news about this record, of course, is that it’s a Smashing Pumpkins reunion! One wonders why it took so long for this to happen in the nostalgia-fueled ‘90s craze of the late 2010s, but my suspicion is that Billy Corgan has never really wanted this reunion to happen.

The divisive frontman has always seemed the restless type, coming out with projects like the free downloads of the 44-song Teargarden by Kaleidyscope project, the last two Pumpkins albums with their new lineup (the underrated Monuments To An Elegy and the overrated Oceania), his 2017 solo album and his oddball side career of pro wrestling management. He insists on being called William (or William Patrick, or WPC, just not Billy). He’s an artist who pushes forward, even if fans won’t always let him.

Whether a reunion was for financial reasons or artistic ones is always up for debate with nostalgia acts, and certainly latter-period reunion albums are barely remembered once the marketing dies down. It’s been well known that Corgan ran the show during the Pumpkins’ heyday and has functioned quite well without his old bandmates since 2000’s Machinamy_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 , so my money is on the financial side. The fans won’t buy Monuments To An Elegy but sell out stadiums to hear their favorite Siamese Dream songs 25 years after they were released? Fine, here’s James Iha and Jimmy Chamberlin and half an album, now shut up.

Of course, if the music was amazing, this would all be a moot point, but it’s really not. Every Pumpkins album or project since 2000 (including Zwan) has at least one killer song, and former fans who go hunting will find this to be true, especially in the Teargarden project and the mostly-forgotten Zeitgeist. Corgan knows what he’s doing, and I will admit a joy in hearing Iha and Chamberlin together again; D’Arcy Wretzky opted not to rejoin the band on bass, so like the Pixies reunion a couple years back, it’s only 75% of the original. But the dudes are here!

So what you have is a classic-sounding Pumpkins album, but one that’s only half-finished, lacking the scope or songs to be a true effort and sounding more like an extended EP. At a lean 31 minutes and eight songs, with two songs under three minutes, this is the most succinct and concept-free the Pumpkins have been (although Monuments To An Elegy was brief, it had Tommy Lee on drums, so it was more of a side project than a Pumpkins album). But it just doesn’t have much to say, nor does it add anything to the legacy.

The even-numbered tracks here are the standouts, evoking the classic Pumpkins sound, which is why you all came in the first place. “Silvery Sometimes” and “Solara” are the best of the bunch, though “Marchin’ On” hits a nervy punk energy that stands apart from the midtempo fare and closing “Seek And You Shall Destroy” boasts some good riffage, if not terribly memorable melodies.

It’s the other four songs that really drag this down. “Knights Of Malta” tries way too hard to be contemporary but is just cringe-inducing from the outset, “Travels” has the most inane lyrics of any Corgan output this decade and both “Alienation” and “With Sympathy” are just Pumpkins-by-numbers, and not even good numbers.

And when this brief affair is over after a half hour, you wonder why the band bothered to reform if this was all they had in mind. Granted, if a Vol. 2 is coming with an equally mumble-mouthed drug-inspired title, then I will gladly reassess this as a project. But as it stands, this reunion effort seems more interested in bringing back lost Pumpkins fans than pushing forward in a new direction, which is against the spirit of everything Corgan has tried to do in the last decade-plus… and it shows.

Rating: C

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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