Smashing Pumpkins — “Tiberius”, from Monuments to an Elegy

The Smashing Pumpkins have released a three-song sampler EP from their forthcoming new album, but it is only physically available if you pre-order from an indie record store! Excellent news. What a great way to support these retro outlets. And what better way to buy music?

The sampler contains: “Being Beige,” “One and All” & “Tiberius.” See the accompanying videos to this post if you want a listen.

And here’s more info:

In support of their eighth studio album Monuments to an Elegy, available December 9, The Smashing Pumpkins will play a series of special shows in select cities around the globe.  …

The special lineup for these performances will include Brad Wilk (Rage Against The Machine) on drums and Mark Stoermer (The Killers) on bass joining The Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan and Jeff Schroeder.  “We’re absolutely thrilled and humbled to have Brad and Mark helping us out with these shows,” said Corgan “and if our rehearsals are any indication they should be one-of-a-kind.” …

Yesterday, premiered the new track, “Tiberius” which they called “intimate” and “expansive” while declared the track “sounds like a return to form—a nod to the beloved Pumpkins sound of old with a modern twist.”  Monuments To An Elegy features Tommy Lee on drums and was recorded in Chicago.  The album is produced by Howard Willing, along with Corgan and Schroeder.  Monuments to an Elegy is “an album within an album,” part of their ongoing work-in-progress Teargarden By Kaleidyscope (with Day For Night as the project’s last work).

Clockwork Angels (Best of 2012 — Part 2)

Another one of the albums in my Top Ten for 2012 is Rush’s Clockwork Angels.

Stories like “Xanadu” and “Cygnus X-1” were what first enthralled me. So it is a dream come true to have a full-blown concept album from Rush after all these years. And with an accompanying novel, no less.

“Though Rush has often embraced huge themes and stories, sometimes over several albums, this is the first time the band has attempted a full concept. The story, nearly sixty-seven minutes long, follows the journey of a young man finding his own voice in a society ruled by indeterminate god-like fates (the Watchmaker and the Clockwork Angels), a rule-based conformity but peopled by a number of eccentric persons and subcultures,” writes Brad Birzer.

The story seems to be ever ancient (obviously it’s an epic remake of Red Barchetta, and Subdivisions, and [insert your favorite Rush song here]), yet ever new: “a very Calvinistic set of gods attempt to control all through mechanized precision, while alchemy, rather than science, has progressed. The album is divided into twelve songs, each represented by an alchemic symbol positioned at each hour of a twelve-hour clock.” (Brad Birzer on the story)

Brad also notes:

What is especially fascinating is that Rush—in music and lyrics—has with Clockwork Angels created an all-embracing mythos, referencing their own works and music going back to the band’s very first album. There are hints, some overt and some not, from albums across the past four decades, and the protagonist must—as with Aeneas and a number of other classical heroes—experience, survive, and outwit the gods.

In Clockwork Angels, though, the hero realizes one very vital thing: the divine will always control time. The gods might not control our individual fates—despite what the priests and politician tells us—but, in the end, Chronos devours all. But, within that given time in the world, man can do many things, and he can even dream and pursue the highest of all things.

In other words, Neil Peart continues to inspire. As Brad has noted elsewhere, “Neil was the big brother who introduced us to the literature our teachers seemed to have misplaced: classical myth, Voltaire, Coleridge, Twain, Dos Passos, Hemingway, Rand, Tolkien, Eliot, and others.”

Brad’s tribute to Rush there hits the target:

In the late 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s many of us lovingly thought of ourselves as the younger brothers of Peart. He was the genius kid with integrity, who always walked through the halls with two hilarious, equally smart (if not overtly intellectual) and infinitely loyal friends. One of his friends had parents who had survived the Holocaust camps of the Nazis. The other friend had folks who had escaped the prison camps of the Communists. Now, the three were free to express themselves in any way they so decided on this side of the Atlantic.

These three confidently confronted the world as a perfect trio, unbreakable and ever mutually re-enforcing and inspiring.

We looked up to all three as those who could understand our failures and successes, our desires and our alienation, our rejection of conformist culture and our drive to better ourselves.

Going where I want, instead of where I should
I peer out at the passing shadows
Carried through the night into the city
Where a young man has a chance of making good

A chance to break from the past
The caravan thunders onward
Stars winking through the canvas hood
On my way at last 

Also on my 2012 list is Oceania. Like Brad, fan boy Billy Corgan also knows how to pay appropriate tribute to Rush.

Oceania (Best of 2012 — Part 1)

The Smashing Pumpkins

One of the albums in my Top Ten for 2012 is The Smashing Pumpkins’ Oceania.

Volcanic bass guitarist Nicole Fiorentino and Rush fanboy Billy Corgan deliver some especially mind-blowing musical moments. The title track invites us to go swimming in 9:07 minutes of heavy prog wonder, in which we encounter an acoustic guitar island and then ride out more waves with multiple distorted guitar solos.

But every track is a keeper. In the album order, my four fave tracks are “Quasar” (which rocks things off with an appropriately heavy mystic quest, as the chorus sings out the Tetragrammaton—YHWH—until meditative bliss is encountered), “The Celestials” (complete with a heavenly epiphany—see next paragraph below), “My Love is Winter” (an incredibly melodic mind-grabber that builds the tension expertly in a prolonged way and then attains delirious resolution after teasing us delightfully with the extended musical deferral), and “The Chimera” (for its epic monster riffing).

“My Love is Winter” was the divinely lovely song that stayed with me most when away from the headphones; but “The Celestials” is perhaps my upper-echelon selection for epic greatness. It opens with an awesome sing-along acoustic guitar enticement. Then it blasts into rock trio orbit at 1:16 as the bass (oh yeah! dig the bass!), the guitar, and the drums prepare for the jump to light speed. And wham, at 1:52 we launch into hyperspace and the whole world suddenly accelerates and then magically slows down as, now outside time, we cosmically survey it all via the synthesizer’s lens. Powered into crazy warp speed by the ripping guitar beginning at 2:22, then eventually, at the edge of the universe, at the three-minute mark, the horizon of spiritual enlightenment is crossed as the music invites us to contemplate the spiritual master’s most divine insight (sung in harmony with the guitar): “Everything I want is free.”


“Everything I want is free.”

Give somebody this album as a gift for Christmas.

May the music help you swim in the ocean of love. Ride on!