Heart and soul

<!– Link: Smashing Pumpkins

Holy shit! A Smashing Pumpkins album I like!

That’s not entirely true. I love Gish, and it’s because of that love that I’ve pretty much disliked the Pumpkins’ subsequent output.

Siamese Dream had absolutely no arc — it was one mid-tempo song after another, and after a while, the entire album blurred into one song.

Adore, on the other hand, had a great premise and quite a few nuggets. But the lethargy of the performances and the void left by drummer Jimmy Chamberlain pretty much hammered the nails in the coffin of this commercial dud.

Disclosure: When Melon Collie and the Infinite Sadness was released, I had no interest in listening to two discs worth of Billy Corgan indulging himself.

And yet, I’ve remained interested in the group despite Corgan’s overbearing influence. Credit that to the expert musicianship of James Iha, ex-bassist D’arcy and the re-recruited Chamberlain — Corgan may the group’s brain and muscle, but its other members are the Pumpkins’ heart and soul.

Hence, MACHINA/The Machines of God is actually good. It’s the follow-up to Gish I’ve been waiting for since 1991. It’s the single disc of Melon Collie the band should have released in 1995. It’s the Siamese Dream the Pumpkins should never have recorded in 1993.

The heart and soul of the Pumpkins rock out on this album, and the grand gestures once explored by the band — strings! acoustic guitars! drum machines! synthesized bass! — are drastically scaled back, if not entirely done away with.

Remember that cool bass solo in “I Am One” or the dynamics changes on “Siva” from Gish? The first single off of MACHINA, “The Everlasting Gaze,” has a break in which an a capella Corgan rants an entire verse of the song. Ya see — that’s the kind of clever songwriting shit the band has been missing since the early 1990s.

Rumors have been flying around that the Pumpkins may call it quits after touring this album. If that were the case, MACHINA would be the perfect opus to wrap up an otherwise intersting if not scattered recorded legacy.