Obsessed with pomp-rock dinosaurs and angsty gothic abrasion when everyone else was looking backwards to punk and blues for inspiration, Billy Corgan was never going to make many friends with his early ‘90s peers. Like fellow doom merchants Trent Reznor and Marilyn Manson, the new decade finds Corgan in somewhat of a creative rut. Shorn of not only one, but two of his bands, both under rather uncomfortable circumstance, the man that Sharon Osbourne once branded ‘a baldy twat in a dress’ seems to have hit a midlife crisis.
Unravelling both here on record and more publicly through his postings to myspace, it seems Billy has a new wish to connect with his fans and shed that famously icy exterior. He gushes over a love interest on ‘Pretty, Pretty Star’ and dreams about changing the world on ‘All Things Change’, albeit in a rather stunted, resigned manner; it’s almost as if he’s having to convince himself, not us, that he still wields that influence.
While his banner-savvy lyrics (“despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage” et al) are infinitely quotable, they’re also hopelessly generalised, so as to mean something to everyone – and, by extension, nothing much to anyone in particular. Perhaps that’s not surprising coming from a man once so obsessed with his place in rock history that he threatened to split the Pumpkins if their ’Siamese Dream’ album didn’t sell. Still, few could have predicted he’d fall this deep into a pit of lyrical self-pity and teen angst.
Corgan’s albums have always tended to suffer from attack of the dreaded filler. On the aforementioned ‘Siamese Dream’ and, albeit to a lesser extent, ‘Mellon Collie’, this trend could be somewhat overlooked because each contained a number of singles that were strong and robust. By ‘Adore’ and the wishywashy, overlong ‘Machina’, the chaff began to seriously outburden the wheat. Listening to ‘The Future Embrace’ is somewhat akin to playing the like-minded ‘Adore’ but skipping its singles.
It sounds like Corgan wanted to make a classic eighties 4AD-style shoegazing record, but instead of offering us something swirling and beautiful, we end up with an experience that is simply flat and grey. The drum machine that is the chugging engine of the album soon begins to grate and as every track blurs dreamily into the next, it becomes a remarkably jarring listen for a record so bereft of hooks or teeth. Perhaps this is what middle age sounds like on our Bill. If so, he’d better get on the phone to his old friends sooner rather than later.
4Tom Edwards's Score