Love him or hate him, Billy Corgan is rarely at a loss for words, whether he’s excoriating his former bandmates in interviews, or rhapsodizing with pseudo-mystical grandeur over the Smashing Pumpkins’ ongoing 44-song suite Teargarden by Kaleidyscope, begun in 2009. Oceania is meant to be the latest phase of that project — an “album-within-an-album” that furthers the Tarot-inspired concept behind Teargarden — but peel away the pomp surrounding its release and you’re left with a torrential, seam-busting rock epic that stands entirely on its own.
While purists love to clamor for the band’s original lineup, the truth is the Pumpkins have always been Corgan’s baby to coddle or toss out with the bathwater as he pleases. That said, the current unit (guitarist Jeff Schroeder, bassist Nicole Fiorentino and drummer Mike Byrne) is tightly synced, bringing a vintage hard-rock swagger to the lysergic scope of “Panopticon” and the thick, overdriven groove of “The Chimera,” which itself recalls the dense guitar infinity of songs like “Cherub Rock” from 1993′s Siamese Dream. Corgan, for his part, sounds strangely at ease in his own skinâ€”almost tender amidst the psychedelic dream pop sheen of “Pinwheels,” and resolute in his chants of “Yes I understand/ Yes I know my will” over the Zep-sized wall of ecstatic sound in “Quasar.” Is it excessively grandiose and bombastic? At times, yes. Is it a balls-out return to form? Absolutely.