Rock music's great outsider hero sounds positively reinvigorated on Oceania, an epic 13-song album that comprises part of a larger ongoing 44-song cycle entitled Teargarden by Kaleidyscope. This collection of song-focused, progressive rock bombast is the strongest complete album statement from the indomitable Billy Corgan and company since mid-'90s masterpiece Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. Corgan has written plenty of excellent songs since reforming one of the greatest rock bands of all time, but on Oceania, there's a renewed sense of confidence and ambition colouring even the most saccharine offering: the synth-driven "One Diamond, One Heart." A large part of that can be credited to the most musically balanced line-up the Pumpkins have had. Twenty-two-year-old drum prodigy Mike Byrne is one of the only percussionists on the planet that doesn't sound foolish trying to fill the vast shoes of innovative drum deity Jimmy Chamberlin, while guitarist Jeff Schroeder and bassist Nicole Fiorentino are straight-up superior players to previous string-slingers. This is especially apparent in the case of Fiorentino ― never before have Pumpkins songs featured such prominent bass work and gorgeous vocal harmonies. With crisp, concise songwriting (even on the nine-minute title track), slick production and subverted historical rock references ("Pinwheels" is a sort of anti-"Baba O'Riley"), Oceania is more the addition of a new tower to the alternative palace Corgan helped build than the foundations for something strange and new. One can hardly fault the man for polishing his innovations though. If the pressure of the Pumpkins banner is what it takes for Corgan to continue crafting peerless rock, we should be thankful it's flying high again.
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