Rank and File

Ranking: Every Smashing Pumpkins Album from Worst to Best

on November 20, 2018, 12:40pm
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10. Zeitgeist (2007)

the smashing pumpkins zeitgeist Ranking: Every Smashing Pumpkins Album from Worst to Best

Tracks/Length: 12 (13 with the respective bonus track, depending on which store you bought it from), 52:22

Who’s Smashing Pumpkins Here? Jimmy Chamberlin, Billy Corgan, (Ginger Reyes and Jeff Schroeder for touring)

The Everlasting Track (Longest Track): “United States”, 9:52

What’s In A Name? With only Corgan and Chamberlin behind the wheel, Zeitgeist officially marked the beginning of Corgan’s exhausting argument with the media, his skeptical fans, and his pugnacious critics about “Who is the Smashing Pumpkins?”, forever changing the face of the former Chicago banner with explanations that more or less said, “I’ve always been.”

Too Many Corgans in the Kitchen: He plays every guitar riff, he plays every bass line, he’s behind all the keyboards, he’s at the controls (which, admittedly, he does share with Chamberlin and producer Roy Thomas Baker), and every harmony belongs to him. If this album feels too insular, that’s because it is.

Who Wore It Best? There wasn’t a definitive choice, which was sort of the problem. Most of the B-sides trumped a healthy chunk of the album. While “Death from Above”, off the yellow version, sticks out as the worst Pumpkin track to date (right next to “Starz”), “Stellar”, “Ma Belle”, and “Zeitgeist” were all worthy songs in the catalogue and yet relegated as exclusives to chain stores. Pretty lousy. It basically became a jigsaw puzzle; how can you salvage the album?

zeitgeist albums Ranking: Every Smashing Pumpkins Album from Worst to Best

How Can You Salvage This Album? Easy, though it would require a return to the master tracks, some re-recording alongside Nicole Fiorentino, and a star wipe of all the excessive Baker-fied production techniques. But, because that won’t ever happen, here’s what you do, instead:

01. “Zeitgeist”, 02. “Doomsday Clock”, 03. “7 Shades of Black”, 04. “United States”, 05. “Tarantula”, 06. “That’s the Way (My Love Is)”, 07. “Stellar”, 08. “Ma Belle”, 09. “Superchrist”, 10. “For God and Country” (acoustic)

What About “Bring the Light”? A wonderful B-side that never found a proper chorus.

Rotten Apples (Worst Song): A whole orchard’s worth. This album was plagued with excess, probably due to a lack of a curator like Flood or Butch Vig or anyone willing to talk down Corgan. As a result, we got his clone army in “Starz”, the vagaries of “Bleeding the Orchid”, the RHCP-leaning “Neverlost”, the confused and bored “[Come On] Let’s Go!”, and more “Pomp and Circumstance”. As aforementioned, B-side “Death from Above” is unlistenable and just all around bad.

Music Video Rankings: Dead last. The ridiculous green screen chaos of “Tarantula” and the uninspired spacey nonsense of “That’s the Way (My Love Is)” couldn’t come close to the band’s previous work. This was a chance to give some identity to this new lineup, something Corgan didn’t want to do until Oceania.

Farewell and Goodnight (Analysis): As Corgan stated, “We kept it pretty close to the chest, and we didn’t branch out too deep into art zone while we were writing the record.” This likely contributed to the album’s impromptu sensibilities, where it’s so steadfast on getting to the next idea that there’s little reflection. The end result is an album full of would-be hits and awe-inspiring misfires. Despite an attempt to revisit the past — fun fact: this was even recorded on the same 24-track tape recorder that captured Mellon Collie — little nostalgia was scuffed up. And any of the humanity exhibited towards the end of Machina was pasteurized by Baker’s rabid enthusiasm to ape Queen’s theatricality and pastiche. In short, the Corgan clones butchered this album, and the insular lineup sounded less and less like a band the deeper it got into the LP.

–Michael Roffman


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