Smashing Pumpkins - CYR album review: No Nineties nostalgia here

The Smashing Pumpkins are mixing up their sound (Jonathan Weiner)
The Smashing Pumpkins are mixing up their sound (Jonathan Weiner)

Usually, getting the old band back together means a group is ready to embrace the sound of their best-selling music for a second time. Frontman Billy Corgan, who has essentially been operating Smashing Pumpkins as a solo alias for much of the past two decades, welcomed back guitarist James Iha and drummer Jimmy Chamberlin (but not estranged bassist D’arcy Wretzky) in 2018, and an album that year was filled with big guitars and poignant echoes of their early Nineties pomp. Which makes this one an even bigger surprise.

Here are 20 songs in which buzzy synthesizers and swooning backing vocals of Katie Cole and Sierra Swan are far more prominent than anything that might make you want to dig out a plaid shirt and a pained expression.

Most of the music is melodic and energetic, especially Starrcraft and the bouncing title track. Chamberlin, if it is him, sounds more like a drum machine on the robotic, relentless Adrennalynne.

It’s Corgan’s nasal yowl that confirms which band you’re listening to. To be fair, this stylistic leap is another clue. He has travelled a long way from the anguished alt-rock of popular Pumpkins albums. Last year he released a 17-song collection of folksy Americana under his own name. Casual fans who have returned after a nostalgic look at this line-up will be confused, but pretty tunes such as Dulcet In E are an appealing re-entry point even so.