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Smashing Pumpkins

"A Song For A Son"

[Self-released; 2009]

By ; December 8, 2009 

Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOG

A review will be posted for each song from the Smashing Pumpkins’ new album,Teargarden by Kaleidyscope, as they are released. For an overview of the project and a complete index of song reviews, click here.

Listening to the first song from Teargarden by Kaleidyscope, I realized some things about what I should expect from this project. Namely, there’s a Jimmy Chamberlain-sized hole in the music, and that’s going to be tough for circa-2009 Corgan to fill. Never mind that Chamberlain didn’t play on Adore, my all-time favorite Smashing Pumpkins album. Adore‘s electro-folk was radically different than anything that Corgan ever wrote before or after, and it most certainly would not have taken shape the same way had Chamberlain been the one behind the kit. On the other hand, judging from “A Song for a Son,” Corgan is writing in his most familiar mode: epic ’70s-style rock with a ’90s kick. And that will definitely not benefit from somebody besides Chamberlain handling the drums. His 19-year-old replacement, Mike Byrne, is from my native Portland, so I obviously wish him nothing but the best on this project. Unfortunately, he doesn’t do a lot here to distinguish himself. His drum work on “A Song for a Son” is decent enough, but the hyperactive fills at the song’s climax aren’t anything that doesn’t make me wish it was Chamberlain playing them.

With that said, “Son” is actually a pretty good song. It’s an epic ballad firmly in the “Tonight, Tonight” mold, probably the most straightforward Zeppelin/Queen homage Corgan has ever written. The song is musically very strong (building from a “Mellon Collie”-esque piano intro to a textbook classic-rock ballad, with an ultra-clean guitar solo reminiscient of Tom Scholz of Boston) and lyrically kind of clumsy (does a song about “the son I never had” really need a line about space invaders?), but more importantly, there is a genuine warmth to Corgan’s delivery that has been missing from much of his post-Adore work. He smartly avoids overloading the song with layers and needless production tricks, keeping it relatively lean and uncluttered. This is the kind of song Corgan used to be able to write in his sleep, and to hear him sounding more comfortable on record than he has in the last decade can’t be looked at as anything but encouraging for this project.


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