To know me (Shannon), is to know that I am a big Smashing Pumpkins fan. That may be an understatement. I am one of the true, originals… we’re talking Gish days… pre-bald Billy Corgan days. Also, to know me, is to know that once I am a fan of something or someone, I am a fan for life. True, ride or die, loyal to a fault, fan. In college, I once drove to a tattoo studio with a friend, so that I could get an “SP” inside of a heart, tattoo. Thankfully, we are in the south, and on Sundays most things are closed, including said tattoo shop- again, thankfully. I guess the desire never came back as strongly, because I am pleased to say that I exist, today, without that “SP” tattoo.
With that being said, when Smashing Pumpkins released their new album last week, Cyr, I told Ger that I simply had to take over the Music Monday blogging duties, because I have some things to say.
Not only do I want to discuss the album because I am so thrilled that it was released, but I also want to chime in, due to the fact that a ton of critics have not been kind to it. Yes, I am loyal, and would most likely love anything that came out with the band’s name, but I can fully admit when I am not loving a release, and have no problem recommending you take a listen or not. So, here we go.
Speaking to the SP fans out there… remember when Zeitgeist came out? That sign of the times feel that SP was here with their Mellon Collie, diverse sound, but with an Adore flair? Well, with Cyr, they have returned, with the current sign of the times, put to music. I respect this album, ahem, double album. It has a wonderful synth-rock appeal, that I find assuasive and heartwarming, while totally rocking out to it around the house. There is something about a more subtle sound of Corgan’s voice singing to a melody, rather than the screaming lyrics. Don’t get me wrong, I love myself a good screaming of Zero or Cherub Rock, but hearing Corgan belt out his writings in Cyr, the title track, soothes my Smashing Pumpkins loving soul.
As Corgan has said in recent interviews, if you are waiting to hear an album that sounds like their old stuff, you may be waiting for a long time. People grow, change, and honestly, as much as I cherish Siamese Dream, I already have it. I don’t need to hear another version of it. Is there anyone who actually loves a remake of anything? I don’t think so.
With that being said, as new as this sound is for SP, it also makes me reflect on when I first cracked open my box set of The Aeroplane Flies High, and heard SP cover The Cars’ You’re All I’ve Got Tonight. That sound, that seemed so different than the SP I had known, was so very welcomed at that time. It’s the same feeling I get now, listening to the tracks of Cyr.
Some of the top tracks for me are Wyttch, as it seems to try to veer off from the synth-rock feel with a standout guitar line, and background vocals that are amazing! Also a fave, The Colour of Love, that made me question if D’arcy had returned and I somehow didn’t know it, only to find that the harmonic background female voices are those from Katie Cole and Sierra Swan, who Corgan has enlisted throughout the album. Again, not to dive deep in nostalgia, but hearing that female vocal sound, definitely made me feel the feels of D’arcy and the early SP tunes, and I loved it.
The album’s standout track though, for me, is Purple Blood, made of the perfect contrast of guitar and synth-sounds. Corgan’s lyrics are clear, and raw, but Iha’s voice is also clear as it backs up Corgan in the high points. Speaking of Iha, the strength of his guitar playing is just as evident as it was in early Gish days. Chamberlain, undoubtedly one of the best drummers, ever, is perfect as he pounds out each track, even having what seems to be perfect restraint when it is called for. Birch Grove, a unique track for the album, walks away from the theme of what Cyr seems to be, but I learned recently that Corgan wrote Birch Grove as an ode to his children. No, I’m not crying, you are. A welcomed addition to the SP sound is the guitar playing from Jeff Shroeder. I say new, though Shroeder joined the band in 2007, initially replacing Iha, though can anyone really replace Iha? Ger and I actually saw him perform with SP in Asheville, NC at The Orange Peel, during a residency stand. It was his first time performing with SP, live, and he was phenomenal. Seeing that Shroeder is still hanging in there for this commercial release, double album, makes me very happy!
I could go on and on about every track, each evoking a certain emotion from me, for us, the fans, but this would then turn into a novel. I’m unsure as to why critics are hating on this album, except, perhaps they know that Smashing Pumpkins no longer needs to pander to record companies, radio stations, nor rock journalists, the whole industry really, as they did in the past. Critics seem to want that same early SP sound, or perhaps since Cyr is a double album, they want the same sound as Mellon Collie.
SP has it’s fans, their following. We have meandered through the years, getting excited about each release, either an official one, or a tune that Corgan wishes to share with us when the mood strikes. Look, sure, some of the tracks could easily be on a Stranger Things soundtrack, due to the 80’s, synthesized sound, but what is wrong with that? I am digging the sound, and besides, there is a reason that Stranger Things, a show set in the 80’s is so well received.
With Cyr’s 20 tracks running the risk of being mundane, it seems to flow like a carefully written story by Corgan, showing that The Smashing Pumpkins are back, stronger than ever! Me, well, I sit, as I have through most of 2020, waiting with bated breath for things to get back to normal, and perhaps with that norm, an SP tour for Cyr is on the horizon. A girl can dream!