Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Song Review: "A Song For A Son" by Smashing Pumpkins

The Smashing Pumpkins (Billy Corgan and whoever's working with him at the moment) are back with new music.  Yesterday marked the release of the first song from the massive, epic 44-song beast of an album "Teargarden By Kaleidyscope."  Billy will release his new project one song at a time in sets of four, recording and refining all the way. 

Song number one is "A Song For A Son."  According to Billy, it was recorded quickly and is about his thoughts on not yet having any children.  My opinion of the song is mostly positive.

The meat of the song is the swirling piano and other keyboards framing Billy's up-front vocals.  The melody is sweet and in line with the Pumpkins' softer work (such as much of the album Adore).  There are also layers of biting guitars, including a huge solo in the middle of the piece.

While listening to this song, I am reminded that the Smashing Pumpkins have changed and evolved over the years.  The lo-fi, buzzy, crunchy sound, coupled with Billy's nasally, faint vocals, is no longer the primary sound of the Smashing Pumpkins.  Billy makes music for today, not the 1990s.  This is especially apparent in his vocals.  Never before has Billy's voice sounded so clean, so loud.  It's no longer buried underneath everything else.  It completely changes the sound of his work.  He also sounds older because, well, he is older.  I know a lot of fans complained about the vocals on the last album, but people need to accept that this is how Billy sounds today.  The old Mellon Collie sound is in the past.

What do I like about this song?  I like the rhythms of the lyrics.  I like the keyboards, and the softer, prettier sound.  I think Billy mostly left that behind on the last album, and it was sorely missed.  I like the fact that this is a big, epic journey of a song like so much of the Pumpkins' best work.  With different production, this could easily be a song on Siamese Dream.  It reminds me of Soma in some ways.  I definitely like the guitar solo.   

What do I not like about the song?  I hate to say it, but I miss the buried, mumbly vocals.  That's just how I think Billy Corgan is supposed to sound.  It was his style.  I also think this song needed some female harmonies.  Perhaps Linda Strawberry could have pitched in?  Billy used a lot of harmonies on Adore, and I really liked it.  His voice blends well with female voices.  I also think the guitars could have used some more distortion and fuzz, but once again I'm comparing today's Pumpkin sound to the older Pumpkin sound too much.  I also think the song could have become even more intense in the middle and end.

In all, this is a very good first look at the Teargarden album/project.  It sounds modern, but also feels like it belongs with Mellon Collie and Adore.  I definitely appreciate the return of the balance of beauty, intensity and length.  That is the true Pumpkin way.  Mostly, I can't wait to hear what other goodies Billy can cook up for us.

If you want to download "A Song For A Son," go to www.smashingpumpkins.com.  Listen to the song below!

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