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Smashing Pumpkins | Shiny and Oh So Bright, Vol. 1 / LP: No Past. No Future. No Sun.

Billy Corgan & reunited Pumpkins are in a no-win situation with this comeback disc.

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You almost have to feel sorry for Smashing Pumpkins. If only because they’re in a no-win situation. For those who haven’t been paying attention, three-quarters of the band’s original lineup — singer-guitarist and control-freak mastermind Billy Corgan, kinetic drummer Jimmy Chamberlin and underappreciated guitarist James Iha — have reunited after more than a decade. They even convinced superstar producer Rick Rubin to return to the fold to help them assemble this 10th studio release. I use the word ‘release’ as opposed to ‘album’ because the absurdly overtitled Shiny and Oh So Bright, Vol. 1 / LP: No Past. No Future. No Sun. has just eight songs that last 31 minutes, so really, it’s more of a glorified EP. But that’s no reason to feel sorry for them, of course. Nor is the disc itself: While it’s not exactly a triumphant return, it’s a perfectly acceptable representation of the resurgent Pumpkins: It has a couple of Corgan’s grandly walloping rockers, some other cuts reminiscent of their more melodic 1979-era sound and even a few surprisingly contemporary bits. So it’s no blatant nostalgia cash-grab. Also on the plus side, Corgan sounds like he’s engaged and enjoying himself, Iha gets the chance to contribute some colourful and creative guitar work, and it’s always a treat to hear monster stickman Chamberlin at work, feverishly peppering his snare drum and thundering around the kit. On the downside: He’s usually way too far back in the way-too-gauzy mix. But that’s no biggie in the grand scheme either. Honestly, the Pumpkins’ main problem is that no matter what they do, how well they do it or whatever amount of good intention they do it with, a huge chunk of their audience is inevitably going to turn up their noses and say they’ve lost it/sold out/given up/gone soft/tarnished their legacy/whatever. So much for shiny and bright.