Smashing Pumpkins

Zeitgeist (Virgin)

Those of you hoping that the Smashing Pumpkins' comeback record is an unmitigated disaster will be disappointed: It's not. Those of you afraid that lead Pumpkin Billy Corgan made another The Future Embrace (his über-synthpop, somewhat-cheesy solo album) will be happy: He didn't. With drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, the lone member of the classic Pumpkins lineup remaining, Zeitgeist is reined-in and focused due in part to his steady influence. Corgan embraces the quintessential hit-making calculus that brought him critical respect and rabid fandom in the early 1990s: distortion, noise, heavily layered vocals and quiet-to-loud dynamics. All of that permeates the first half of Zeitgeist, letting up briefly for one extended period of instrumental wankery—¨United States,¨ a song that ends up functioning as a transition into the second half of the album. Highlights include ¨That's the Way (My Love Is),¨ the cloudy drones of ¨For God and Country¨ and ¨Doomsday Clock,¨ in which guitars scream in like a bottle rocket and distort almost immediately—a nice companion to Chamberlin's Animal-from-Muppets drumming. Sure, there are a few weak tunes that sound like Smashing Pumpkins karaoke, and Zeitgeist's tricks aren't quite as revolutionary today as they were when SP debuted—much the way other grunge-era bands sound far less dangerous today than they did in 1993. But fans of a certain age (20- and 30-somethings mostly) who were inundated with Pumpkins music in high school and college will find Zeitgeist familiar if not nostalgia-inducing.

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