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The Smashing Pumpkins: Teargarden By Kaleidyscope Vol. II: The Solstice Bare

It hasn’t been easy being a Billy Corgan fan lately, what with all the obnoxious quotes (the recent one dissing Pavement via Twitter was particularly painful), the resurrection of the Smashing Pumpkins name with a bunch of hired guns, and 2007’s overcooked, overblown, ultimately mediocre Zeitgeist. Replacing the only other original member (drummer Jimmy Chamberlin) with a kid who was a year old when Gish came out, then announcing that the band’s next album would be a 44-song monster doled out piece by piece seemed to be the final straws, but something funny happened on the way to the group’s creative funeral: The album’s first EP collection, Teargarden By Kaleidyscope Vol. I: Songs For A Sailor, turned out to be pretty good. And would you look at this—Vol. II is even better, conjuring up the spirit and sound of Zwan, Corgan’s underappreciated, short-lived supergroup that ran with the Pumpkins’ best pop moves. Everything here is laid out fairly simply, and the relative restraint benefits all five songs, including “Freak,” with its thick, juicy guitar, the mid-tempo sing-along “Tom Tom,” and the acoustic vinyl-only bonus track, “Cottonwood Symphony.” It just sounds like he’s having fun playing in a rock band rather than getting bogged down trying to make some grand statement about where he fits into alt-rock’s history book, though the “Are you with us or against us?” line during the driving “The Fellowship” (which includes some nice space-odyssey keyboards) is a smidge troubling. Even so, Corgan seems to be headed in the right direction, and when was the last time anyone felt comfortable saying that?


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