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CD of The Week

Week of 11/30/20

    Smashing Pumpkins - CYR (Sumerian)

    Less is more seems like an odd thing to say about a 20-track double album. But it seems to fit the concept for the Smashing Pumpkins' latest release CYR. This is not an album that features the lush production value of its predecessors, rather it is a total throwback '80s synth-pop record that isn't afraid to try new things and expand on the overall sound of the band. Leave it to Billy Corgan to turn the clock back this far with this version of the Pumpkins, with two members of the classic lineup (James Iha and Jimmy Chamberlain are still on board). Perhaps most surprising is how well the album flows over the course of its 20-song, 82-minute runtime. CYR is an easy listen and can at times be very enjoyable if you give it a chance.

    The first half of the album starts off strong with the pumping "The Colour of Love." A heavy bass line supports the driving percussion with a dash of dreamy guitar work from Iha and backing vocals that echo the song title. Think of this one as a roided-out version of "Stand Inside Your Love". Digging deeper into the first half is where the '70s/'80s synth influences really begin to stick out. Songs like "CYR," "Wrath" and "Starrcraft" were clearly influenced by the likes of Depeche Mode and New Order, down to both their use of synthesizers and syncopated 'clap' effect in the background. And if you find yourself in need of a little taste of that classic Pumpkins sound, "Wyttch" has got you covered. You can really hear the connection between the musicians and the chug of the guitar throughout is grunge through and through.

    "Purple Blood" kicks off the second half of the record with a more industrial sound and is followed by "Save Your Tears," another synth-heavy love song that showcases truly dreamlike backing vocals complemented by the pace-setting of Chamberlain's bass drum. While the second half does admittedly drag a little in the middle, things do pick up toward the end with standouts like "Haunted" and "Schaudenfraud" to help bridge the gap. The album closes with "Minerva", which encompasses everything that makes CYR enjoyable: dark themes supported by upbeat melodies that showcase Corgan's signature lyricism.

    It will be interesting to see how diehard Pumpkins fans react to this album. While three-fourths of the original lineup are present, you might not pick up on that listening to this album due to the tonal shifts and instrumentation present. Does that make the artistic choices made here admirable or abominable? Time will tell, but until then there is plenty to enjoy on CYR and that in and of itself is reason enough to rapture.
    Review by Keith Obaza

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