Back in the nineties, The Smashing Pumpkins were one of the biggest acts out of the alt-boom, appealing to everyone from precious indie to head-bangers. Internal conflict ripped the band apart by the end of the decade/century/millennium, with main man (some would say too main, given his controlling ways) Billy Corgan later reviving the name, if not the rest of the band (save some work by sometimes-member, original drummer Jimmy Chamberlin), for rock epics that actually weren’t bloated vanity projects, but still not the essential Pumpkins of old. Now Chamberlin and original guitarist James Iha have rejoined for Shiny and Oh So Bright. Vol. 1 / LP: No Past. No Future. No Sun. While it may not be the magnificent revival Corgan & co. clearly want, it’s still a strong record for today.
Billy Corgan has never lacked for ambition, but it’s notable that Shiny isn’t the momentous album that it could have been, given that three-quarters of the classic line-up was back (not included was original bassist D’arcy Wretsky). At just over a half-hour and only eight tracks, the album gets to the point. The Smashing Pumpkins’ big, harder-edged neo-classic rock side, sometimes overlooked in their heyday, but more appreciated later on, is the most at the fore, from swaying opener “Knights of Malta” to big finish “Seek and You Shall Destroy”. The pushing “Alienation” reminds of nineties single “Zero”, and that is a good thing. On the other side of the sonic coin, the joyful & wistful take on youth “Silvery Sometimes (Ghosts)” reminds of nineties single “1979”, and that is a very good thing.
The Smashing Pumpkins have always had a bit of an unusual reputation: both overrated and underrated. Instead matching both of those reputations, Shiny and Oh So Bright meets neither, and instead is just a strong record from a strong band.