Billy Corgan has kept himself busy over the last year. When last we left him, he was putting out his third solo album Cotillions, a full 17 tracks of roots-informed numbers deviating greatly from anything out of the Smashing Pumpkins catalogue. Then Phantogram put out their record Ceremony in May, which he made writing contributions to on two songs. Now it’s back to the main event: Album number 11 from the Smashing Pumpkins, Cyr, is here; a 20-song closer to 2020 with a synth-pop direction that came about from people constantly telling Corgan that his sound wasn’t “contemporary” enough for the current year. So far there’s no fixed consensus about this being a good move, as what one pair of ears hears is almost always different from the next.
“The Colour Of Love” kicks things off with an indie-synth drive, a number that one could hear City And Colour or another singer of that ilk doing as much as they can Corgan, whose voice still works very well here, let’s be clear. The crawling, narcotic “Confessions Of A Dopamine Addict” vibes and gels pretty well too, while the title track is nothing if not euphorically danceable; made even more colourful by its glorious chorus harmonies. The stellar vocal work carries over on “Dulcet In E”, the synthy, spacey vibe on “Wrath”; melded with acoustic guitar on “Ramona” both are made even better. “Anno Satana” is closer in spirit to traditional, straight-strumming alternative rock, “Birch Grove” is more encompassing and contemporary. “Wyttch” shows bits and pieces of Gish and, likewise to numerous other songs thus far, “Starrcraft” provides the in-sound contrast to the glimpses of nostalgia littered throughout the record.
“Purple Blood” explores a lot of the same floating-in-the-middle-of-the-galaxy vibes Deftones did not too long ago on Ohms, albeit nowhere near as heavy and aggressive of course. “Save Your Tears” follows a somewhat similar, harmonious course, “Telegenix” meanwhile is marked by its groove: more specifically, its pounding bass drum and crunching snare hits. By the time “Black Forest, Black Hills” rolls around, it seems to be getting a bit long and repetitive- had the album been cut at 12 or 13 tracks, it likely would have been totally concise and solid. Nevertheless, a few more tracks remain: “Adrennalynne” continues the synth-pulse push with gentle piano chords here and there and upswinging harmonies, shifting into the poppy “Haunted” then into the line-tower “The Hidden Sun”. “Schaudenfreud” is fairly par-for-the-course with its atmospheric, melodic vibe, while “Tyger, Tyger” swings back to the indie pop side of things. “Minerva” rounds off the record in kind, rolling towards the end with a 4/4 base and numerous layers of electric pulse and pads laid overtop.
For the most part, the Smashing Pumpkins’ latest is pretty enjoyable- appropriately juggling between chill and active, skillfully navigating new territory and expertly textured and dynamic. With that said, what keeps it from being a 10/10 effort is the fact that it’s 6-8 tracks too long; had a lot of the material at the end been chopped off it would’ve been an engaging and exciting record end-to-end. Unfortunately with that added length, it turns into a loop of the same stuff and a lot of the thrill is lost. There’s not much to complain about on a musical level apart from the excess of tracks though, so it’s still fair to say this is a record to be proud of for Corgan and co. Perhaps they should try a double album next time and see how it goes.