A happy 2008 goes out to all my readers out there. With a great year of music behind us, it’s time to push forward and pay attention to the new. As such, it might be difficult as we’ve hit a dry patch in January with many releases slated to hit later this year rather than sooner.
However, the first major release of the year is a charmingly pleasant surprise.
For all the griping about the new Smashing Pumpkins, it’s a wonder to me that they had any fan in the first place. It’s been established that Billy Corgan and Jimmy Chamberlin wrote the classic songs anyway, yet their new material is met with such backlash it’s unreal. People need to get over that Zeitgeist was repackaged by heartless label executives and listen to the music, of which is incredibly high quality.
That being said, the band’s new digital E.P. American Gothic is further proof that their songwriting chops have aged like fine wine. According to the great pumpkin himself, Corgan stated that these four tracks are the product of their touring residencies in
The acoustic strummings of American Gothic are a short shot in the arm, four concise songs with Corgan at his most gorgeous and melancholy. The production is fantastic on this release, lush enough to allow for depth and atmosphere but without a thick layer of studio gloss. The material here is organic in nature, with Chamberlin’s percussion still feeling like a full kit and still allowing Corgan’s acoustic guitar to flourish.
The collection leads off nicely with the romantic sounding “The Rose March.” The number begins with a cascading acoustic melody that is further strengthened by multiple tracks of Corgan’s gentle “la la las” harmonizing over each other. It’s a thing of fragile beauty, as Corgan laments about catching the moon, and laying pedals down for the one he loves. Gentle keyboard swells punctuate the song, further rounding out the wonderful arrangement.
As a whole, the collection reminds me of the folkier experimentation they flirted with on Mellon Collie & The Infinite Sadness. While none of the songs here quite reach those indulgent heights, it’s interesting to see the band in a “less-is-more” mentality. It’s as if Corgan’s realized that he doesn’t need to make every song into a symphonic statement. The tracks here can stand up on their own, without a full orchestra backing them, further displaying the expert song craft.
“Pox” is easily the E.P.’s crown jewel, twisting into a dark and desolate soundscape. It’s the most caustic that Corgan gets on the collection, singing “We’re giving back a dream…” His current pre-occupation with
The quaint charm of American Gothic closes with the fleeting “Sunkissed.” Organ swells and elegant guitar harmonics run rampant through the track. It further proves that Corgan at his most mournful is still a master of creating an uplifting music piece. The song also finds Corgan finally feeling comfortable with where he is in the universe, with him “Calling upon the wisdom of my age…”
For those complaining about Zeitgeist’s baroque take on meaty and almost metal arrangements, they should be the most adoring of American Gothic. There is something distinctly American about the tracks as well, from the folky undertones to the lyrical content. It basks in its somber beauty and simple make up, but never attempting to pass itself off as something contrived.
In this sense, Corgan has truly made the American statement many feel he didn’t make with Zeitgeist.
Sounds Like- 9 (Damien Rice), Either/Or (Elliott Smith), Adore (The Smashing Pumpkins)
Key Cuts- The Rose March, Pox, Sunkissed