That's the Way (My Love Is) - The Smashing Pumpkins Single Review
Not having heard Smashing Pumpkins return album Zeitgeist, this was my first contact with the latest incarnation of a band that have been around (and critically acclaimed) for a long time. Previous material has been innovative, distinctive and intelligent and I plugged in my headphones with some trepidation - it's never nice to be disappointed.
The single starts with a drum intro from Jimmy Chamberlin that could have come straight from the Mellon Collie era and musically it's as familiar and technically competent as ever. Layered guitars, a dense rhythm section and the trademark overdubbed space sound distortion combine to wrap the vocals in sharpened fuzz. When a new guitar part kicks in you get the feeling that precise hours of fine tuning have gone into getting the amp setting absolutely right. The attention to detail (or obsessive fiddling) that Billy Corgan has often been praised (or criticised) for here pays off and the production can't be faulted.
Technical prowess is no substitute for original ideas, and it's here that criticisms can be made. Brilliant lyrics have come sporadically to Corgan, varying between perceptive, emotive storytelling Lily (My One and Only) and obscure meanderings Suffer. Lyrical competence is, of course, in the ear of the listener but to hear 'baby' replace the girls' names of previous songs feels like a transformation from personal, heartfelt emotion to generic sentiments.
That's the way my love is
That's the way I care
You should call on me baby
'Cause I'm always there for you,
is a long way from the bands' best efforts.
Smashing Pumpkins have always played 'verse, chorus, verse, bridge, verse, outro' but here the dynamic changes that infused previous effort have become pedestrian. Even the obligatory guitar solo, once a soaring, crashing cacophony of shrill and growling notes has become a simple variation on the vocal melody. This is still well crafted stadium rock, but the nuances and intrigue of the band's pre-2000 work are missing. The correlation with a new line up (excepting Chamberlin and Corgan) is perhaps indicative that a band is always more than its lead singer. Though Corgan has kept the name and sound of the Smashing Pumpkins, there is something missing and the music has consequently suffered.
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