The Smashing Pumpkins released their 11th studio album today, the ambitious 20-song double-album Cyr that departs a bit from the band’s core alternative rock roots to employ softer guitar chords while embracing a heavier reliance on synthesizers and drum machine effects.
Cyr doesn’t completely retreat from the Smashing Pumpkins sound but the album certainly takes the band down different sonic paths that deviate a bit from the norm that may or may not be embraced by the Pumpkin faithful. The second double album in the Smashing Pumpkins discography (the chart topping Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness being the first) and a sequel in the Shiny and Oh So Bright series, Cyr retains original members James Iha on guitar and drummer Jimmy Chamberlin after their full return in 2018, and for Iha an 18 year absence, along with guitarist Jeff Schroeder and of course singer, guitarist and pretty much everything else Billy Corgan.
Smashing Pumpkins Cyr Album Review
Cyr doesn’t disappoint, but probably won’t rise to the level of Mellon Collie, producing several viable hits along with some filler and what perhaps amounts to experimentation exercises. In some respects, Cyr delivers a set of solid songs along with a few too many that perhaps Corgan was unable to leave on the cutting room floor because of the time and energy spent on them along with a temperament that can’t let go. No doubt a common occurrence with artists, but Corgan also produced the album.
Cyr opens with a great upbeat rock track in “The Color of Love” that departs from the Pumpkins formula while effectively using synthesizers along with a heavier guitar mostly absent from the album. Rather quickly though, Cyr delivers some meager offerings in “Confessions of a Dopamine Addict” which struggles to get going despite Corgan shining vocally, the title track sounds straight outta the 80s without the vigor, “Dulcet in E” has some emotive elements but falls flat and “Wrath” pretty much constitutes a drum machine track with a new age sounding chorus.
“Ramona” rights the ship with a solid entry into the Smashing Pumpkins catalog with an all-around eclectic melody and the fun continues with another solid track reminiscent of later New Order that effectively commingles guitar and synths in “Anno Satana.” “Birch Grove” continues the high-water mark by very effectively using lots of synths creating a memorable pensive melody before Cyr runs aground on the cumbersome “Wyttch” mess. To its credit, the song gets better with a few spins but could have used more work. “Starrcraft closes the first half of Cyr with another solid synther that stands better than most of today’s indie rock contributions.
The second half of Cyr opens with another interesting dip into the 80s with a flair of modern Duran Duran on “Purple Blood” but fully Smashing Pumpkins that could eventually turn this one into a renowned track. Like the first half, a string of coming so-so’s interrupt the emerging flow.
“Save Your Tears” hems and haws between deciding on whether to turn into a good song. Some moments keep it interesting especially with Iha’s bass but the last minute or so crawls to the end. “Telegenix” gives off a dreamy complexion but with no real melody. The beefy bass on “Black Hills, Black Forest” keeps this one interesting until the chorus hits which feels like mental quicksand. Thankfully, you don’t get pulled under as the body of the song resumes rather quickly.
The heavy synths in “Adrennalynne” embrace that stark 80s keyboard motif made popular again thanks (I’m sure in part to) the theme song for Netflix’s Stranger Things and after a few spins this one actually settles in quite alright.
“Haunted” sounds experimental and goes nowhere opening the door for “The Hidden Sun” to shine some thanks to the upbeat pace but overall nothing illustrious. “Schaudenfreud” ends before it ever really gets going and despite the alternative spelling to the original word, the song does not examine the feeling many get when LeBron James loses.
“Tyger, Tyger” comes out of left field thanks to the clubbing and pole dancing vibe that pulsates quite heavy throughout and finally “Minerva” closes out Cyr with little fanfare in a mostly routine melody.
The relatively quick-paced first half works as a complete album (especially when including “Purple Blood”) with much stronger tracks compared to the second half that inches its way to the end and initially comes across more like demos. Regardless, don’t expect to breeze through Cyr. Anticipate more than a few listens through this 72 minute album before you not only get used to the full embodiment of synthesizers but also the various structures, arrangements and somewhat idiosyncratic approach to songwriting.
So, pretty much on point with Billy Corgan and Smashing Pumpkins.
Smashing Pumpkins Cyr Songs:
- The Colour of Love
- Confessions of a Dopamine Addict
- Dulcet in E
- Anno Satana
- Birch Grove
- Purple Blood
- Save Your Tears
- Black Forest, Black Hills
- The Hidden Sun
- Tyger, Tyger