Of course, some Zwan influence is inevitably present on The Future Embrace (Reprise), and indeed, a key element to the new Billy Corgan sound. However, the songs on the album reveal less of an optimistic mythology and more of a jaded, depressed, and otherwise angst-ridden Corgan, which, most fans will agree, is good thing. Corgan utilizes many unique guitar and synthesizer sounds to craft a uniquely depressing sound. The progressions are more minor sounding and even the cover art and inlay photos are painful to look at, representing both the physical and emotional wounds suffered by the musician.
Such songs as: The Cameraeye and Sorrows (in blue), depict reflection and a pensive sort of sadness. On Mina Loy (M.O.H), it is clear that Corgan means to tell his fans that he is back to his former self, (but questions whether he can get his band back), with the words; “can I give my old heart to you?” The epic single, Walking Shade, includes the line; “on the 9 th day God created shame,” Which is clearly Zwan commentary and an affirmation of regret. “Every time I start reachin’ out to find you loneliness abounds, ” are the most prevalent words in Pretty, Pretty Star, a song about lackluster success, solitude, inevitable breakups, and generally the lack of perfection Corgan has experienced with his previous bands. The lyrics of all things change disclose a new, almost Zen-like, realization that; “we can’t change the world.” This might be Corgan coming to grips with the past and realizing that his expectations for Zwan were too high.
The shame about Zwan is that they released only one opus, in which Corgan made a declaration of faith that he later went back on. “Rock and Roll is about family, and there just isn’t a sense of family,” said Corgan of the Zwan break up. They rose like a phoenix from the flame, a perky, catchy, hopeful rock band that put a new twist on the sound that we all grew to love. It was Smashing Pumpkins on…Prozac. It was addictive. With Corgan, Chamberlin and a new female bassist who could also sing, it seemed to be a rebirth and a departure from infinite sadness. Little did they know that, unlike the phoenix, this incarnation would be consumed by the flames. Mary, Star of the Sea was simply elegant and truly a masterpiece, as it showcased excellent songwriting and guitar work along with very melodic solos and perfectly complimentary beats by Chamberlin. The songs were commentary on the past, on the Pumpkins as well as the future and the optimistic new direction Corgan was taking with his new band. Later everyone realized that the word; “optimistic” and Billy Corgan just aren’t good bed-fellows. And although, Mary, Star of the Sea was a monumental album, (and commercially successful), it couldn’t fill the void left by the Pumpkins.
What was the answer to this conundrum? Go backwards. Sometimes a man must venture away from home to realize that he truly belongs there. For Corgan, home is not only the Pumpkins, but the sorrow associated with their music. Though this album is maybe not as catchy or as mythical as Mary, its bells ring true for Corgan and SP fans alike. The Billy Corgan journey might be over at this point, as he realizes that now he must go back to the beginning. The Future Embrace is a retrograde, and a stepping stone back to the Smashing Pumpkins, which Corgan hopes to reunite. Many fans have their doubts about whether or not this will actually happen. In the meantime, though, we can all enjoy Billy Corgan, back in his element, and his music as it was meant to sound, Melancholy.
Rating: 4 stars
Peter Burke is the co-founder and one of the staff writers of Musiqtone and the founder/chief head of Yellow Brick Records. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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