‘Cyr’ finds The Smashing Pumpkins deep in identity crisis

Smashing Pumpkins
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Grade: 1.5/5.0

The Smashing Pumpkins seem to have reached the point in time where they question everything and everyone that gives the band a distinct identity — a midlife crisis of sorts. Lead singer Billy Corgan’s standoff with former bassist D’arcy Wretzky clearly fared ill for the band. But despite the hiccups, The Smashing Pumpkins released a new album, featuring 20 full-length songs, most of which are astonishingly lackluster. 

Instead of unveiling a new creative period for the band, it revealed the hollow shell of its former self The Smashing Pumpkins have become, departing from the once-robust, innovative band that rocked the late ’90s and early 2000s. Released Nov. 27, Cyr is overloaded with synths and pop, as if compensating for the shortcomings and disappointments the band hasn’t been able to reconcile.

“The Colour of Love” kicks off Cyr with a heavily ’80s synthwave-inspired song. It’s catchy, but nothing more. Corgan delivers a decently crunchy bass, but the song is both instrumentally and thematically confusing. The backing vocals are largely unnecessary and only seem to be present in order to hold on to a shred of the band’s early work. Every other aspect of the song fails to work with Corgan’s voice, particularly the empty lyrics. “And the color of your love is gray” is as boring an expression of unrequited love as it gets.

“Cyr” similarly features a thrumming, disco-esque beat, but it’s clear none of the band members feel at home on the song. A majority of the songs on the album follow suit, straddling the line between wannabe synthwave and distorted pop. The Smashing Pumpkins struggle to find the sweet spot between excess and experimentation, which proves detrimental to the integrity of the album.

The band has always included little quirks and flairs that stray from the genre of the song, a prime example being the string section and bells on “Disarm” off of 1993’s Siamese Dream. But, too many conflicting elements and warbling keyboard effects just make the album messy. Cyr comes off a lot like it’s attempting to follow in the footsteps of 1998’s electronically oriented Adore, but it lacks the light-handed cohesion and, frankly, the solid presence of a guitar.

Songs such as “Dulcet in E” and “Wrath” seem to have potential in the first few seconds, but the dissonant instrumentals accompanied by the mundane lyrics render them lifeless. The drums seem to be a particular point of weakness on a lot of songs, either overshadowed by the synths or forced into a basic pop groove — a truly disappointing moment for drummer Jimmy Chamberlin.

“Anno Satana” is one of the only instrumentally tolerable songs on Cyr, but it isn’t phenomenal by any means, and it isn’t enough to turn around what can only be described as Cyr’s losing streak. The grimy, gothic song fits more smoothly with Corgan’s vocals, but, again, the vaguely dark lyrics are mostly vapid. 

The worst song on the album is “Adrennalynne,” an unfortunate attempt at electronic dance music that is so out of The Smashing Pumpkins’ element, it’s painful. The music drags Corgan along the length of the song, leaving him defeated but somehow begrudgingly trudging on. 

Cyr is dry and uninspired, lacking the uniqueness The Smashing Pumpkins used to wield when exploring new styles of music. Instead of revitalizing the band’s sound, the overdose of clashing synths sound processed and forced, squandering away what little potential the band possessed. James Iha’s guitar is basically nonexistent throughout the album, and it’s curious why Corgan went through the trouble of bringing him back at all.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the band exploring new styles of music — Machina II’s punk influences were done well and so were Adore’s sophisticated electronic elements. But where Cyr fails exceptionally is its overambitious attempts to shove generic synth pop and meaningless lyrics down the band’s throat. The album would have fared better had it stayed true to The Smashing Pumpkins’ natural guitar-driven melodies and timeless messages.

Contact Pooja Bale at [email protected]. Tweet her at @callmepbj.