Propelled by news that some original band members of Smashing Pumpkins (James Iha and Jimmy Chamberlin) have returned, their 10th studio album feels lined up for a ‘return to form’ narrative. Sadly, that’s not the case. Billy Corgan remains as ambitious and single-minded as ever on the record, chasing his vision for the band, which seems to exist somewhere between rare glimpses of the old spark and its dying embers. The production and craft is pristine, but there’s little spunk to the record; the mid-tempo indie numbers often sound like Feeder or the sort of forgettable band that would have been signed in 1995 by a hapless A&R hoping to find the next Pumpkins. Corgan’s ear for melody is still there, but when it’s filtered through such anaemic songs, it becomes irrelevant. Even with original members back in the band, the Smashing Pumpkins still sound like a band in the midst of an identity crisis, unsure who they are, what they sound like and, ultimately, what they exist for.
Written by Daniel Dylan Wray. Released on Napalm Records.