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First Track from the Smashing Pumpkins Epic, Teargarden By Kaleidoscope
During the time the Soul of Rock 'n' Roll was being redesigned and reborn, there was a lot of music news that I didn't get to discuss. One of the most exciting (at least for a big Pumpkins fan like me) was the announcement that the Smashing Pumpkins would be releasing their next album, a 44 song epic called Teargarden By Kaleidoscope would be released a song at a time online. The album would also be released in a physical format as well, but would initially be made available for anyone who wanted it, for free.
Releasing albums online isn't really new for the Pumpkins as they were one of the first bands to ever release an album in this method way back in 2000 with MACHINA II: The Friends and Enemies of Modern Music... actually one of my my favorite Pumpkins releases to be honest. When I heard the news about this new album though, I was especially psyched. This project has an enormous conceptual scope and I think it's going to be incredible.
And of course now that the first song has been released, and I've been listening to it almost non-stop for the past three days or so, my excitement has only increased 10 fold... it's a new direction, but the music is powerful, complex and interesting.
The first song, called “A Song for a Son” is actually not new to me. I heard Billy C and company testing this one out live during the 20th anniversary tours last year. Even then in a relatively undeveloped format, it was sounding really good with a nice melody and massive choruses similar to, but definitely unique from, songs like “Soma” and “Mayonaise” if I remember correctly.
The version that has been released though, although it's the same melody and lyrical structure is quite different, with very somber, psychedelic flavored guitar riffs and dreamy sounds instead of the “soft then loud” thick more familiar guitars of the live version and previous Pumpkins albums. To my ear it sounds like a sound that fits the Billy Corgan well. It is not nearly as “shoegazey” or as “Sabbathy”, if you know what I mean, as say Siamese Dream, but it's extremely melodic and powerful. I love the way the piano chords ring... the recording is very clear and so you can literally hear them fade and echo away... cool. This track also has an absolutely stellar guitar lead (well it's actually two leads that blend back to back)... maybe not quite as screaming as some of Billy's guitar solos from the past, but definitely one of his best in terms of using a guitar lead to push a song's melody up to 11.
When viewed along side the more recent more psychedelic versions of songs like “Blue Sky Brings Tears” and “Heavy Metal Machine”, and lets not forget the massive “Gossamer”, this song sounds right at home. Personally I think these recent altered versions are incredible, especially “Blue Sky Brings Tears”, which I would implore any “new Pumpkins” skeptic to seek out the recent live versions... they're incredible. If those songs and this version of “A Song for a Son” are the direction Billy Corgan wants to take the Pumpkins, I see some amazing music on the way. Of course, I never really doubted that would be the case as I identify with just about everything the this band has ever done.
Of course I can certainly see more than a few “Pumpkins Fans” not digging this one... like I said, it's not nearly as “shoegazey” or “Sabbathy” as previous releases. The melody though in my opinion, is as strong, or even stronger than anything Billy has written before. People should have an open mind though as this is some great music... great music indeed.
Corgan has said that the plan is to release new music on a regular schedule from now until it's finished... again, like I said, online for free... so it'll only be a matter of time before another new track turns up. I can't wait until the full set is released in physical form so I can sit down and listen to the complete concept at once.
Overall, on first listen, I guess you could say I'm really digging the first track. Of course take a listen for yourself. Here's a little music player where you can listen, download etc, direct from the Smashing Pumpkins official site: