Forget that he’s estranged from original guitarist James Iha and bassist D’arcy–Billy Corgan was already bucking incredible odds when he announced that he was joining drummer Jimmy Chamberlin for a full-fledged Smashing Pumpkins “reunion.” After all, in the high-stakes world of rock revivals, it’s universally agreed that you should never record a new CD. Plan an overpriced arena tour, sure, but enter the studio and you’re setting the stage for a disaster.
Yet, with this blistering set of tunes, Corgan has somehow managed to create an album that doesn’t feel like a sad retread. Granted, there are a few missteps, mostly a handful of drab, synth-touched ballads. But otherwise, the first album under the Pumpkins name in seven years is filled with the kind of tinnitus-inducing riffs and fleet-fingered solos that Corgan mastered when he still had a full head of hair.
Throughout Zeitgeist, he’s fixated on the apocalypse, as evidenced by titles like “Doomsday Clock” and “7 Shades of Black.” Fortunately, though, his foot is firmly planted on the monitor in front of him as he tears through intense rockers like “Tarantula” and ethereal guitarfests like “Bring the Light.” In the end, this is a loud, almost triumphant statement that finds the Pumpkins’ founder rediscovering his strengths after the failure of 2005’s low-key solo debut, The Future Embrace. That may not be enough to silence his critics, but for the time being, Corgan seems content with merely drowning them out.