Along with your REMs, RHCPs and Pearl Jams, Smashing Pumpkins are front of mind when discussing bands most associated with the vibrant American alternative music scene of the 90’s who have stood the test of time.
This turbulent, sometimes controversial, and musically capricious band have returned with their eleventh studio album; Cyr, continuing their peculiar naming practices in both album and song titles.
Comprising twenty songs, it would not be far-fetched to expect this to be a diverse album, as it’s made by a band renowned for releasing such albums; just check out their widely acclaimed 1995 album Mellon Collie and The Infinite Sadness. For better or worse however, most of the songs on Cyr appear to have been built around the same blueprint of lively electronic drum beats and synths, with frontman Billy Corgan being supported by luscious female backing vocals.
The drum beats lift you up and carry you through the songs, often staying consistent as the songs transition between verse and chorus. Their presence helps songs like Wrath grow on you as they play, but listening to the album as a whole, the electronic beats start to put you on edge. Lacking in any ‘ear candy’ that makes use of the entire frequency spectrum, it feels as if the album needs a ballad to give the listener’s ears a rest and break up the album, although the guitar in Anno Satana offers a welcome reprieve from the synths and Wyttch features some great-sounding acoustic drums and chugging guitar.
A fairly divisive figure both in terms of his vocals and opinions, frontman Billy Corgan’s talent cannot be disputed, with him writing and producing a lot of the band’s music. With this album though, the way he’s constantly elongating the ends of his phrases quickly starts to become vexing and indeed his general enunciation, or rather lack of, makes it difficult to find meaning and emotion in the lyrics. Having said this, the lines ‘All hail the blackest night, blinding me with signs’ from Starrcraft and ‘Baptised from a breath of pain’ from Haunted, are powerful ones.
Possessing an undercurrent of synthy pop, Cyr doesn’t have the same rocky edge as say 1993’s Siamese Dream, but Billy Corgan has always wanted his fans and peers to know he belongs to a band that pushes musical boundaries.