One masquerades under the banner Smashing Pumpkins and the other sounds just like them, Getintothis pits Zeitgeist and Carnavas in the battle of the SPs.
1. Doomsday Clock v Melatonin
Its been seven years since the Pumpkins’ last effort, Machina, but when Jimmy Chamberlin’s thuds clatter in, we’re on safe, if thunderingly recognisable territory, and 26 seconds in that spiteful, dying crow screech of Billy Corgan’s enters amid white-hiss guitars and what a surprise, he’s moaning, ‘its lonely at the top!’ Promising start from the baldy bugger.
Melatonin – or ‘the hormone of darkness’ according to Wiki – is swathes of My Bloody Valentine, trippy rock and tangled choruses and yelps. All a bit 1991, but we’ll let ’em off, the tune’s dashing. Impressive start from both camps.
2. 7 Shades of Black v Well Thought Out Twinkles
Who’s Twinkles I wonder? I reckon it’s bass player Nikki’s cat… Anyway, this is Pumpkins-era Siamese Dream; thick, muggy production, 78 guitar tracks and just needs Billy to shout about pain or heartbreak and you’ve virtually a cover version. The ‘real’ Pumpkins crank it up even louder. You really forget what a smart drummer former skaghead Jimmy is. But, uh oh, two minutes in and this is really flat and yawnsome, kinda hovering like a bluebottle before landing on your expertly prepared bacon sarnie. Hey, if we wanted noise we’d have invited Lightning Bolt, you guys yawn noiserock. Tunes please.
3. Bleeding The Orchid v Checkered Floor
Ooooo, nifty multi-tracked monk-ish vocals from Billy’s bunch but the tricks are in short supply, this is essential MoR trad with Guns N Roses histrionics. Incredibly dull.
Speaking of checkered floors – has anyone been to the new eatery bit in Korova? Talk about Twin Peaks – chessboard floor, crushed velvet curtains and spooky decor you just need an inbred midget demon to creep out and steal your pint and David Lynch would be reaching for his lawyer’s number.
Anyway, The Pickups settle for the quiet loud approach with Nikki taking over lead vocals. In all honesty I’m struggling to find any positives or negatives, it is THAT bland.
4. That’s The Way (My Love Is) v Little Lover’s So Polite
Here’s one for fact fans, Silversun Pickups got their name from an off-licence. Remarkable. Less remarkable is Little Lover’s… all fuzz bass and saccharine girl-boy vocals. It’s a razor blade slip away from emo. Alright, so the chorus is very summery and I can imagine where I in a soft top whazzing down a freeway in California it’d be swell. But I’m not, it’s a dank October. Hardlines folks.
Four tracks in and ol’ Bill is really taking his foot off the gas. This snorter could easily have snuck in as a Zwan B-side. Sure it’s pretty catchy but so are Del Amitri. There’s a lovely little middle-eight where everything drops into electronic squelches before a white-hot solo orgasms all over the shop, but it’s hard not to feel this is Corgan by numbers.
5. Tarantula v Future Foe Scenarios
AT FRICKIN LAST. When the Pumpkins nail a tune, they really nail a tune. This is straight from the hand that penned Bullet With Butterfly Wings, Cherub Rock or Zero; nasty, lascivious and the essence of primal rage.
The aggression is contagious, as the Pickups turn all their guitars to sludge, batter the shit out of their kit and vocalist Brian Aubert howls about tearing angels wings. It’s a shame when approaching the six minute mark they fade out, a whopping juggernaut of sound to finish would have gone down a treat. Nevertheless can’t complain, I’ll leave that to Billy.
6. Starz v Waste On It
The Pumpkins are on a roll. Employing military beats, multi-tracked vocals and biker-chugging riffs they skillfully meld loose funky rhythms with tight silver-tongued guitars. Chamberlin even throws in some nifty wooden stick action which’ll have your fingers clicking.
Waste On It begins with a slightly meandering tickling pop before the inevitable cavern of GSSSSSSSSH kicks in – it’s pretty standard rock, albeit effective and it appears both records despite a sluggish start have added more meat to the bone. Phew!
7. United States v Lazy Eye
There’s simply not enough freaks in the world today. And I don’t mean X Factor idiots, I mean real Circus of Horrors stuff. Once there was a time when Hollywood catered for these special people, now everyone’s an homogenised robot. Anyways, Lazy Eye is surely an ode to genius Marty Feldman. It’s also the best track on either record by a countrymile and if you aint heard it this summer you’ve been listening to the wrong radio stations. It is a stunning melodic bombastica.
United States forms the centre-piece to Zeitgeist, at just shy of ten minutes it’s essentially Corgan’s big up-yours to his homeland, and while the statement’s sincere the tune’s found dreadfully lacking. One mighty riff padded with six minutes of superfluous drudge.
8. Neverlost v Rusted Wheel
Mmm, after the belting Lazy Eye, the Pickups drop their guard with this weighty, brooding effort which hums along for six minutes all the while threatening to bite your ear off but ultimately lacking the killer touch. And the same can be applied for the Pumpkins, who offer some gentle melancholia which is instantly forgettable.
9. Bring The Light v Dream At Tempo 119
Since when where The Smashing flippin Pumpkins Simple flippin Minds. Oh dear. This is gash awful 80s stadium white jeans gack. I have to play Dream… twice. The first time I didn’t hear it as I was attracted to the delicious roasted pork waft emanating from our kitchen.
The second time I was so bored I skipped it.
10. (Come On) Let’s Go! v Three Seed
Things are going downhill and fast for Team Corgan – this is painfully pisspoor pap which wouldn’t have even made the Zwan cut, let alone late era-Pumpkins. You can almost imagine everyone in the recording studio with cheerleader pom-poms bopping the air sipping champers – it’s that cheesy. I can only get through two minutes. Eww.
Three Seed is far better, a languid, slow burner with a beautiful soothing flow. And though it has the feeling of being somewhat half-formed, it’s groovy, grinding pace is a change for the good and welcomes repeat listen – something which both records have produced in short supply.
11. For God And Country v Common Reactor
Bizarre. This is Corgan’s dalliance with electro as Depeche Mode synths trade with deep rumbling bass. Following such pap it’s at least interesting on the ear, but it is hard to pick out a discernable tune and what little flow there was has completely gone to cock.
Strangely, as the Pumpkins camp shoots itself in the foot, the other SP’s are closing in style, Common Reactor is kinda 1979/Today-classic Pumpkins a quiet rattling thrum which builds into euphoric bluster. A genuine six-minute thriller to finish.
12. Pomp And Circumstances v –
If the previous track was strange, the Pumpkins are rounding off in ridiculous style with a choral, orchestral Lloyd-Webber affair. ‘I won’t tell a soul, that I’m mad as hell,’ croons big Billy. That’s ok dude, we already know!
What began as a mediocre, distinctly pallid affair with both SP’s cancelling each other out, the music reached an entertaining climax midway through, before the old-timers completely lost their way allowing the heirs to their doom-pop throne to gleefully snatch their crown.
While The Silversun Pickups have clearly a long way to go before emulating Siamese Dream-era Smashing Pumpkins, it’ll take a lot more for Corgan and co. to comeback from this largely weary effort.