SMASHING PUMPKINS – Shiny and Oh So Bright Vol 1 (Album Review)

Ok, Ok, so it’s not quite the full title of the album on the header but it is quite a mouthful. The album that is fully titled Shiny and Oh So Bright, Vol 1/LP No Past. No Future. No Sun sees original members Jimmy Chamberlain (drums) and James Iha (guitar) return to the fold. Unfortunately, there is no sign of either of the bands former fantastic female bass players D’arcy Wretsky or Melissa Auf der Maur but as long as the madness that is Billy Corgan is still screeching out his strained and cracking vocals over a well written track that’s all we need to keep the balance of indie rock alive.

The 8 track album recorded with renowned super-producer Rick Rubin was originally slated to be released as 2 four-track EPs but it was decided by Corgan to release it as a whole in the first of a future series. Weighing in at an unusually short 31 minutes, let’s get this baby ringing down the ear canals and I’ll give you my opinion on the sounds I’m hearing with my well worn ears.

First track on the album “Knights of Malta” begins with what sounds like a violin accompanied by a piano which then evolves into a mid-paced indie-style pop song. Corgan‘s vocals actually sound quite decent on this one, either he’s improved or pro tools and auto-tune have played a big part. I’d say it is the former though as his vocals stick within his parameters. The guitar is sweet on this, nothing spectacular just notes picked out here and there throughout played with slide.

On the other hand “Silvery Sometimes (Ghosts)” sounds more like classic Pumpkins. I don’t know whether it’s the fact that three quarters of the original band is back and contributing but this is more like the Pumpkins I remember. This one is more of an indie rock song filled with violins and distorted guitars, Corgan‘s vocals sound emotional and wrecked which fits the mood of this track perfectly.

“Travels” begins with guitars ringing out over a plugging bass and Corgan wailing away. The string section sounds epic on this as it does in most of the tracks I’ve heard so far, the only thing I find fault is the sound of the drums they sound a little artificial on this with not enough bass and too much treble. This is a beautifully written track and I think for the first time ever this band have written a perfect pop album which, if there is any justice in the world of music, we’ll see it rise into the charts, sitting somewhere along the top worldwide come the end of the year.

A crunching guitar beats into life on “Solara” giving it an all the more heavier sound and when the chorus kicks off proper it launches into early 90’s full on indie rock. This is the Pumpkins I remember and I’m liking this more and more as it plays on. “Alienation” could be Coldplay as it begins, you can just imagine Chris Martin bellowing out the vocals on this one. As the track builds again it would easily fit on said bands set list easily. I love the guitar parts on this, in some spaces they sound almost cello like at other times they have a tone similar to Brian May of Queen. This is grandeur.

“Marching On” rocks out from the off with a distorted down stroked riff and vocals that have that venomous sound of Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols. I love the breakdown at the 2 minute mark on this it’s spitefully heavy, distorted and venemous. “With Sympathy” is full of strings and sweetly sung vocals. The whole track is filled from top to bottom with no space for air. There’s parts of this that remind me of Fleetwood Mac especially when the backing vocals come into view. The bass sounds so fresh and clear throughout as does all the instruments on a beautifully written track.

Such a cool riff to start off “Seek and You Shall Destroy”, bobbing and weaving all over the place until the chorus hits and then it’s straight ahead rock! My history with the Pumpkins has been chequered, most of their albums I’ve picked at tracks here and there but have never really enjoyed a full album from them until now. For a band that’s been treading the boards since ’88, it’s amazing that all this time later they have come up with their best album yet. The only other band I personally think have done that in the past is the Scorpions with Return to Forever, so they are in good company where I’m concerned.

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