The Smashing Pumpkins: CYR (Sumerian) - review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Thursday, January 28th, 2021  

The Smashing Pumpkins

CYR

Sumerian

Nov 27, 2020 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


The Smashing Pumpkins have never been shy of excess or daring to stray into strange and unexpected territory. They started off as a shoegaze/post punk/alt rock hybrid before being swept up into the mainstream as the strange cousin of grunge before rejecting all the success that came with becoming rock gods to start delving into dark synth-pop. Behind the scenes, trouble was never far from the surface and the inevitable implosions created rifts in relationships, leading to many splits and reincarnations with varying members (Billy Corgan being the only constant) and disappointing later releases as a result.

Recent years have seen Corgan attempt to heal the divisions and return the multi Grammy Award-winning band to former glories by releasing CYR, a synth led double album which they call the third part in a trilogy that started with the 33-track album Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, which many consider their magnus opus, and the less appreciated Machina/The Machines of God.

It’s a bold move to try and measure their latest LP against a record that defines not just The Smashing Pumpkins, but arguably the sound of the ’90s so late in their career. Clearly a lot of work has gone into CYR, which consists of no less than 20 tracks and in typical Pumpkins fashion also has the audacity to tell an epic fantasy story across three accompanying animated videos—but does it truly match up?

CYR certainly gets off to a strong start, as catchy lead single and first track “The Colour of Love” acts as a statement of intent that The Smashing Pumpkins are clearly courting mainstream appeal with clear nods to New Order, as heard in following tracks “Confessions of a Dopamine Addict,” title track “CYR,” and throughout the album. But it is an album fraught with problems.

Firstly, don’t expect any huge bursts of raging guitars on this record. We have to wait until nearly halfway into the double album until we get “Wyttch,” the only song with a bit of muscle, and even this falls a bit flat. We don’t need every song to have a classic riff like “Cherub Rock” or be a face-melting masterpiece such as “Zero,” but it’s so wet, it’s sodden; this “Wyttch” definitely doesn’t float.

And it’s not the only bad song blighting this pompous album, as “Dulcet in E” sounds a bit like a song rejected from the last terrible Muse album. Plus, “Starrcraft” is incredibly irritating and “Tyger, Tyger” sounds like someone playing with a kids Casio keyboard for the first time. Together with “Adrennalynne,” they appear to be cynically titled by a boomer attempting to appeal to the TikTok generation.

Ultimately, the downfall of CYR is that it mostly sounds much the same throughout and when that’s 20 tracks, it makes it an effort to get through, never mind enjoy. Rather than a dynamic range of baroque pop and hard rock found on Mellon Collie, we rigidly remain in okayish synthpop songs like “Wraith,” “Haunted,” “Anno Satana,” and closing track “Minerva,” which draws parallels to their incredible single “Stand Inside Your Love” without ever nearly touching those impassioned heights. It’s a limp ending to a drawn-out record, which probably would sound better had it not felt like such hard work to get through it all.

But that is not to say it’s all bad. “Ramona” is a cracking single, which will stay in your head for a long time to come, “Birch Grove” and “Telegenix” both get it right and “Black Forest, Black Hills” has a great bassline. In fact, the second half has some great moments including “Purple Blood,” which prowls with menace and recalls the predatory feel of “Ava Adore.” “Save Your Tears” has a classic Corgan breathy vocal delivery gasping with desire and “The Hidden Sun” really nails the sound they’re trying to achieve. Special attention has to be paid to “Schaudenfreud” as it’s the best track on the album, and, with downcast Shakespearian lyrics littered with obscure references with a pervading autumnal feel, has all the hallmarks of a classic Smashing Pumpkins song. It should have been a single yet feels strangely neglected towards the end.

The Smashing Pumpkins’ history is certainly a rockier road than most, ticking the box of almost every OTT cliché there is. One of the major problems of great bands returning well past their heyday is that they end up becoming a bad cover version of themselves. It’s an allegation many had against the band’s previous record Shiny and Oh So Bright, Vol. 1 / LP: No Past. No Future. No Sun., their first to see Corgan finally reunite with both Jimmy Chamberlain and James Iha (but not bassist D’arcy Wretzky to complete the classic line up) in nearly two decades. It’s a surprise that they now chose to tackle the third part of a trilogy master-plan (according to Corgan’s claims) rather than continue with Vol. 2 of the aforementioned LP and credit is due for pushing themselves and trying something radically new—however, that doesn’t mean that they succeeded in finding or mastering that new sound.

The shadow of New Order has always loomed large over the Pumpkins, and perhaps with the addition of Peter Hook’s son Jack Bates as touring bassist inspired or felt it gave them licence to finally dive deep into a similar dark fusion of pop and electronica. It’s just that CYR doesn’t have any of the charm or truly impressive songs as created by Bates’ father’s band, it’s just strangely sterile, coldly alien and feels lost instead. Adore did a much better job of balancing electronica with a sense of humanity. With more and more listens to CYR, the yearning for fits of incandescent rage found on “Bodies,” sugary sweet moments like “Perfect,” and colossal anthems like “Tonight, Tonight” and “Mayonaise” becomes ever greater.

While it may be unfair to compare everything to the peaks of their lengthy career, it is a good way of measuring what Corgan and co. are capable of—especially when their latest offering is being sold as the concluding instalment of a 25-year trilogy. CYR is a record that so obviously chasing mainstream appeal yet sabotages itself by being too long a self-indulgence. (www.smashingpumpkins.com)

Author rating: 5/10

Rate this album
Average reader rating: 5/10



Comments

Submit your comment

Name Required

Email Required, will not be published

URL

Remember my personal information
Notify me of follow-up comments?

Please enter the word you see in the image below:

There are no comments for this entry yet.