When drummer Jimmy Chamberlin and guitarist James Iha rejoined singer/guitarist Billy Corgan in 2018, three-quarters of the classic alt-nineties Smashing Pumpkins had returned. People hoped for another Siamese Dream, but also worried that the renewed bigger presence would go to Corgan’s already well-sized ego, for some bloated over-ambitious epic of sound & fury, signifying nothing. Yet that year’s Shiny and Oh So Bright. Vol. 1 / LP: No Past. No Future. No Sun (QRO review) was only just over a half-hour & a mere eight tracks, and while not the next Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, was a strong record. Now comes CYR, and like Shiny its play-length is in inverse proportion to its title-length, at over an hour-ten. While there are certainly too many songs, the new old Smashing Pumpkins once again delivers.
CYR is no prog-rock opera, but if there is a theme, it is dark synths (done by Corgan, who produced as well, because of course the notoriously controlling artist would). While sometimes that comes off as Corgan trying to be ‘of the now’ (“Ramona”), it’s not as much as one might think/fear, his hard rock sensibilities cutting through. Pieces such as the big & bold Smashing call “Wrath” employ the keyboards well – and there’s still guitar-driven rock songs like “Wyttch” (the song titles & album title reflect Corgan’s almost ‘metal grand’ viewpoint). The one hour-and-thirteen minutes running time makes it all a bit tough to fully take in (a subtle grace of Shiny), but it isn’t bloated with ‘obviously should have cut’ tracks (even the rather overwrought “Purple Blood” is overwrought in The Smashing Pumpkins way).
It’ll never be the nineties again, no matter how much Gen X wishes it (went from being overshadowed by boomers to being overshadowed by millennials), and The Smashing Pumpkins realize it. Yet they’re still ambitious & impressive.