Though the Classic Rock establishment would tell you otherwise, Billy
Corgan turned a creative corner when he authored the Smashing Pumpkins'
best single, "1979." Razing off the cock-rock bluster that doused
Siamese Dream in Andy-Wallace-walls-of-guitar and an unbearable amount
of masturbatory guitar solos, the streamlined sound he established on
that still-fresh song led onto and bled into the Pumpkins'
entirely-underrated Adore album, which, for all its faults the
that it seemed to drag on and on being a big one found Corgan
authoring some of the best music of his career, NyQuil-baked,
eyeliner-caked neo-new-wave/electro-goth pop-songs like "Daphne
Descends," "Tear," and the "1979"-sequel "Perfect" all capturing the
sort of woebegone melancholy, minor-keyed drama, and wailing flounce
that suits Corgan's aesthetic. The former SP frontman sees "1979" as
the beginning of a movement that has led to his debut solo album, The
Future Embrace, with Zwan, his post-Pumpkins all-star-rock take on
alterna-rock Americana, merely being a tangent breaking off of such.
This'd all make much greater reading if The Future Embrace was a really
great album. Only, it's not, and certainly fares poorly when compared
with the other solo record to come from within the Smashing Pumpkins,
James Iha's 1998 outing Let It Come Down, a "lost" soft-pop classic.
Corgan's own own-name debut may not be any sort of classic, but it is a
peculiar pop-cultural curio, a strange set of sonically dense songs that
seem to have been painstakingly sculpted in the studio,
meticulously-erected constructions whose shiny façades are every bit as
glistening and phallic as Corgan's bald dome.
It's nominally an
"'80s-sounding" record, but, well, it's not really. Whilst the disc
does draw heavily from Corgan's longtime heroes Depeche Mode (a band who
once actually seemed incongruous to Corgan's aesthetic, when the
Pumpkins first covered them in 1993), its retrophonic cues are naught
like those poses being struck by the ironic electro-humans in recent
seasons. Instead of leaning on kitsch keytone, the disc creates an
almost impenetrable sound-world, building songs out of layer upon layer
of laid-down sounds, from its foundations of industrial-toned beats to
seemingly infinite overlays of heavily-processed guitars, effects-draped
vocals, and sci-fi-ish synth sounds. The gear is buffed to such a
productional sheen that its every sound seems like a reflective surface,
the compositional complexity leading to an album as confusing and,
ultimately, distancing as a hall of mirrors.