A Smashing Failure

The new Smashing Pumpkins album is disappointing and repetitive.

You would think 28 years would be enough time to think through a sequel to an album properly. Well, the new Smashing Pumpkins album tells us that even with all this time, they still cannot live up to their previously set standard.

The Smashing Pumpkins, a guitar-driven rock band, just released the last part of their 33-song album, “Atum: a Rock Opera in Three Acts.” Split into 11-song increments over a series of months, the band attempted to create a sequel to their huge classic hits “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness” in 1995 and “Machina/ The Machines of God” in 2000. The sequel is meant to follow similar characters that were focused on in the previous albums. With Billy Corgan (guitar and vocals), James Iha (guitar), Jimmy Chamberlin (drum kit), and Jeff Schroeder (guitar), “Atum” (pronounced Autumn) is an easily forgettable album and honestly, a chore to listen to. 

“Atum” is set in a distant future with an eerie, outer space feel to the music. The abnormal setting and background of the album made it difficult to connect with the music because it was so far-fetched. Not only did the theme alienate me as a listener, but I also had a hard time tracking how each song contributed to the concept. With no consistency and varying music types, the songs didn’t flow together. 

With the release of Act I back in November, the band also released the single “Beguiled” from Act II. The single is by no means a bad song– I would argue is one of the best on the album. My criticism lies in the comparison of “Beguiled” to their previous hits. Their most popular song, “1979,” has a distinct, nostalgic tune and the lyrics perfectly go along with the rhythm. In contrast to “Beguiled,” while it is different in musical types, it doesn’t offer the same unique tone. The instrumentation is nothing special and the production sounds over done. I was waiting for the song to have a jaw-dropping moment, which never came. Since this was one of the only singles they released for the album, it felt like a letdown after the album was highly anticipated.

By Act III, released on May 5, the songs felt extremely dragged out. Starting off with a seven-and-a-half-minute song titled “Sojourner,” the synth-heavy and cinematic song would’ve been much better cut short. Midway through, the music fades out for a few seconds, and then the song begins again, taking on a drastically different tone. It was like two songs had been mashed together with a few seconds of silence in between and they just titled the whole thing “Sojourner.” This excessive song perfectly introduces the disappointing Act III.  

The title of the fourth song of Act III, “Pacer,” sums up how the Smashing Pumpkins need to pace themselves with this ambitious album. Starting off with a more electric feel than the rest, the track and lyrics clashed with one another, almost like the individual parts of the song were edited by themselves, then just combined into one. The mood and tones also changed numerous times, making the song feel unorganized and frantic. There were many songs like “Pacer” on the album that were simply just detrimental to the album’s effectiveness to serve as a sequel to the previous albums. 

Despite a bad start, there are select songs on “Atum” that are respectable and nice to listen to. Following “Pacer,” “In Lieu of Failure” provides a more put-together organization compared to the song before and was actually fun to listen to. Later on with “Harmageddon,” the electric and rock-heavy song continuously builds up which makes it engaging to listen to. With little quirks like all the instruments coming together, then going silent and just leaving the guitar, made the song more interesting to listen to. The second to last record called “Spellbinding” was my particular favorite. The synths and rock instruments work together well with the vocals and was overall, an enjoyable track. 

I’m not saying these were jaw-dropping songs, but compared to the majority of the songs within “Atum,” these were the few that stood out the most. The issue with the ambitious 33-song album is that these well-made songs were spread out too thin. If the band had chosen to take these select songs and make one album, this would’ve been 100 percent more successful in creating a comeback album. Unfortunately, these songs fall short to overcome the negative aspects of the album. 

Ending the entire album was the song “Of Wings” which absolutely made no sense. First I wondered what the band was thinking when creating the lyrics–which were mostly chant-like “la la la’s”–and even more, why they would put it as their ending song. The last song should be the most compelling to strike listeners with lyrics and a beat that will remain with them later on. Let’s just say, this piece didn’t wow me one bit. 

The inconsistent melodies and music genres along with the numerous basic songs ultimately resulted in the downfall of “Atum.” The band tried to create 33 amazing songs, yet in reality, they created a handful of mediocre ones. While “Atum” had a few small hits, I would recommend saving the two hours and 18 minutes and listening to something else.