The Smashing Pumpkins (or at least half of them) reunited last year for new album "Zeitgeist" and a new tour.
And you know what that means -- when the Smashing Pumpkins make a new album, they usually have a bunch of discarded B-sides. While "American Gothic" is very brief -- only four songs -- it's a solid little EP that serves as a musically lighter addition to "Zeitgeist."
It starts off on a poppy note: "I love you/I don't even care/If it takes my life for heaven unaware/Sin for sin, I've let you in..." Corgan sings lightly of painful love, over ringing loops of guitar and a rather gauzy, elusive melody. "The atrophy, the cruel enough/this vision of oblivion/And when it ends it all begins... Before the world should end/When will I see you again?"
It's followed by the light, shimmering "Rose March," with Corgan rather incongruously singing "la la la" over a strummed guitar. And "Sunkissed" takes a more electronic approach, starting on a similarly acoustic note, but soft streams of synth start creeping in, giving it a hollow organ sound. It softens the plaintive lyrics ("If I'm gonna live/Without you/I've never chased a brighter sun than you'll become").
And as "American Gothic" winds down, the EP ventures back into rock'n'roll territory with "Pox," a sharp little song that bristles with angular riffs and cynical disdain. "We're giving back the dream," Corgan sneers. "Put up your dukes/You're not so strong.... another dumb kid/his shadow..."
"American Gothic" is basically a postscript to "Zeitgeist" -- these songs didn't fit on there, but Corgan and Co. played them on tour, and released them as part of a special edition. But to be perfectly honest, "American Gothic" sounds a lot better when you listen to it just for its own merits, and don't compare it to the blazing fuzzy rock of "Zeitgeist." They just don't sound similar -- this is more acoustic and low-key.
In fact, "American Gothic" sounds very light and sunny much of the time -- lots of acoustic guitars strummed in a mellow back-porch manner, but hung over with smashing drums and airy organ. But there's spare, angular rock'n'roll that simmers in the last half of "Again, Again, Again," and it finally gets to express itself in "Pox's" sharp riffs and drums.
And Corgan seems to be straddling love and despair ("So put my heart on your chopping block/And feed me fire/But don't let go") and musing on how a doomed love will destroy you, even as he casts a jaded eye on the world around us. His smooth, slightly nasal voice has a new passion that I haven't heard from him in awhile, especially since these songs are quieter, more personal material.
"American Gothic" is a nice little EP for the Smashing Pumpkins, though its quietly brokenhearted sound should be taken on its own merits. A pint-sized triumph. --By E. A Solinas "ea_solinas"