ARTIST: SMASHING PUMPKINS
TITLE: SHINY AND OH SO BRIGHT, VOL 1 / LP: NO PAST. NO FUTURE. NO SUN
WORDS: BECTON SIMPSON
Smashing Pumpkins shocked – and excited – their fanbase earlier this year by announcing that original members James Iha and Jimmy Chamberlain were officially back in the band. Although Chamberlain had been depping with them for live shows since 2015, whether he was sticking around or not still remained to be seen. The confirmation heralded what was essentially an almost full reunion of the original Pumpkins line-up, and it was into this excitement they announced they’d be making an album together.
The extremely long windedly titled ‘Shiny And Oh So Bright, Vol. 1 / LP: No Past. No Future. No Sun’ (which will herein be referred to as ‘Shiny And Oh So Bright’ for ease), is a beautiful return to form which sounds much like the type of stuff the band were putting out way back in the day – the likes of ‘Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness’.
“…a beautiful return to form”
One thing that’s immediately striking is Billy Corgan’s voice. It essentially sounds just the same as it did ten plus years ago, which is extremely comforting, and from the opening few bars of first track ‘Knights Of Malta’, you’re immediately in familiar territory. “We’re gonna make this happen…I’m gonna fly forever,” Corgan dreamily leers; appropriate lyrics to start off this short but to the point collection of eight tracks. It could easily be referring to the reunion, and he might be right. They certainly have made this happen and there’s no doubt the Pumpkins’ impact will be around forever, regardless of whether they continue to make music and tour together after this.
It definitely has better playback value, impact and songwriting than previous albums, and is possibly even their best since ‘Adore’. Perhaps its because it’s short and straight to the point (unlike the title). With only eight songs and coming in at thirty-two minutes, it gets in and out and leaves the listener wanting more but without having had any time to get bored by repetitive sounding songs or themes, which has been an issue on previous albums. Perhaps it’s the low key, back to basics production, which comes courtesy of one of the industry’s greats, Rick Rubin, maybe another reason why it sits well next to ‘Adore’, the last Pumpkins album he produced. He’s done a great job here at taking the band right back to their roots. It’s understated, down to earth and laid back; with the occasional smattering of dreamy, swirling soundscapes perfect for a hangover or a chill out session on a rainy afternoon.
“perfect for a hangover or a chill out session on a rainy afternoon.”
‘Silvery Sometimes (Ghosts)’ has a catchy chorus and a haunting, screeching guitar line which takes you right back, possibly giving another reason why this album sounds so old school – with the addition of Iha back in the lineup playing on his first Pumpkins record since 2000, that traditional Pumpkins style is making its comeback. “It’s where I belong,” Corgan appropriately sings on ‘Travels’, another classic cut with a repetitive chorus line that gets stuck in your head. ‘Solara’ is one of the heavier tracks of the collection and the first single to be released, but is almost outdone by ‘Marchin’ On’; with its driving, headbanging beat and feel good attitude, it’s an instant winner. Corgan’s vocals are dripping with slick punk swagger, as they are on closer ‘Seek And You Shall Destroy’ a fitting end to the punchy album.
Some people will see ‘Shiny And Oh So Bright’ as a return to form. Others will say it’s just same old same old. While there’s certainly nothing surprising or boundary pushing about this record, it sits neatly amongst their back catalogue and is Pumpkins through and through, and that’s exactly what everyone wanted right now. Whether this will spurn further releases from the reunited lineup remains to be seen, but it’s a great start and will be a delight to Pumpkins fans worldwide.