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Album Review: Shiny and Oh So Bright, Vol. 1: No Past. No Future. No Sun by Smashing Pumpkins
Fairly Good, Based on 12 Critics
AllMusic - 80 Based on rating 8/10
Billy Corgan is the alt-rock boy who cried wolf: he's threatened to return Smashing Pumpkins to their '90s salad days so often, nobody paid attention when he finally did it in 2018. A decade prior to that year's reunion tour and its accompanying album, Shiny and Oh So Bright, Vol. 1/LP: No Past. No Future.
In true Pumpkins fashion, Shiny and Oh So Bright Vol. 1 defies expectations. Billed as a reunion album, with original members Jimmy Chamberlin and James Iha back in the fold, the nostalgically-inclined were hoping for a "return to form." This is not that. Circling back to repeat is antithetical to the core spirit of the world's greatest alt-rock band.
Instead this is a damn good modern classic rock album, one that evokes elements of what made us fall in love with Billy Corgan's vision and his chemistry with his incredibly talented ….
Since their initial split in 2000 after the underwhelming Machina/The Machines of God album, there's been mediocre solo material, the actually-better-than-you-remember album by short-lived band Zwan, and numerous reformations of the Pumpkins with original drummer, Jimmy Chamberlin in and out of the band. During this time, they released four albums, all of which had merit but were tainted by Corgan's predilection for flabby, overlong releases. Earlier this year it was announced three quarters of the classic line-up had reformed, guitarist James Iha joining Corgan and Chamberlin for a series of celebratory gigs to mark their thirtieth anniversary.
Billy Corgan, smiling politely
Shiny and Oh So Bright, Vol. 1 / LP: No Past. No Future. No Sun. opens with my favourite joke of the musical year by far, and it's not even the album title. The first Smashing Pumpkins album in nearly two decades with anything close to the original line-up ….
Download | Listen and subscribe via Apple Podcasts | Spotify | Google Play | Radio Public | Stitcher | RSS The Lowdown: It’s been a real Lynchian experience for The Smashing Pumpkins in the years following 2000’s Machina II/The Friends & Enemies of Modern Music, the last studio album to feature Billy Corgan, James Iha, and Jimmy Chamberlin. There was Zwan. There were solo albums.
The Smashing Pumpkins can lay claim to being one of the most influential rock bands of their generation. With a near flawless back catalogue throughout the '90s their status as luminaries can never be in doubt. It was around the time of the millennium when the wheels initially came off. Difficult fifth album Machina/The Machines of God was more memorable for the tensions in the studio that ultimately led to the band calling it a day than the music.
Last year, Billy Corgan quietly released his finest record in two decades; not too many people heard 'Ogilala', the bare-bones solo LP he put out under his 'William Patrick' moniker, but those who did would have recognised that the raw songwriting talent that catapulted himself and the Smashing Pumpkins to global stardom in the nineties remained undimmed. Plenty of reason, then, to approach this new Pumpkins album - the first to feature both guitarist James Iha and drummer Jimmy Chamberlin since 2000's 'Machina / The Machines of God' - with optimism. Billy has re-teamed with Rick Rubin, who was behind the boards for 'Ogilala', and the super-producer's stately work lends a fluidity and continuity to a group of songs that comes off as a little bit of a grab-bag.
The Smashing Pumpkins, who celebrate their 30th anniversary this year, are starting to seem like an aging movie franchise, with years of abortive rebirths and non-canonical releases rapidly beginning to overshadow their peak output from the 1990s. It’s fitting, then, that their 10th album--and first with more than two members from the band’s original lineup since 2000’s Machina/The Machines of God--harkens back to classic Smashing Pumpkins in much the same way as, well, an actual aging movie franchise. Like this year’s Halloween reboot, Shiny and Oh So Bright, Vol.
The end result of the much-touted reunion of alt-rock's prominent outliers is finally upon us. Forever pegged as the least popular kids of the grunge alumni, The Smashing Pumpkins have existed in a self-imposed exile from their peer group via their frontman's tendency to be a bit of a "crybaby" (according to Kim Gordon's 2015 memoir Girl In A Band anyhow). The 'difficult' side of Billy Corgan's character was ostensibly still very much evident in his failure to actually achieve a full reunion of the original lineup (depending on who you believe D’arcy Wretzky was either excommunicated or had no interest in working with Corgan again).
Proving that - whatever the world of politics might have us believe - months, even years, spent dead-locked in negotiations can lead to a new dawn of reconciliation and a functioning ongoing relationship; Smashing Pumpkins are reunited at last. Well, not quite: frontman Billy Corgan may have persuaded drummer Jimmy Chamberlin and guitarist James Iha to rejoin the fold, but original bassist D'arcy Wretzky remains out in the cold after supposedly spurning the opportunity to rejoin one of the Nineties' most celebrated rock acts.
Despite only being at three-quarters of their original strength, anticipation has been high for tenth outing Shiny and Oh So Bright, Vol.
The story goes that 75% of the original Smashing Pumpkins lineup, plus Jeff Schroeder (D'arcy Wretsky, how have we forsaken thee), had a proposition for Rick Rubin, who was presumably barefoot and asleep on the studio's couch at the time, by turns convulsing at nightmarish recollections of interactions with Kanye West and dreaming wistfully of the arrival of lunch via Deliveroo. They had a bunch of demos, and were looking to turn one of them into a fully fledged comeback song, worthy of the considerable hullabaloo surrounding this (second? third?) "reunion. " But in a move that's strikingly, depressingly consistent with Billy Corgan's approach to quality control over the past 20 years (Christ, has it really been that long since Adore?), they went ahead and recorded the lot of them.
The path to the Smashing Pumpkins' 10th release has been one filled with many twists, turns and frankly enough clickbait to choke a horse. Truth be told, a mixture of snide journalism and Corgan's outspoken views have helped distract from the outfit's music this past decade, so a quick recap is probably a good idea even for the faithful. For the first time since the original line-up split in 2000, founding member James Iha has returned following a guest appearance on last year's 'Ogilala' - Corgan's atmospheric solo release.