CD Review: Billy Corgan embraces the future and the past

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

On his first solo album, The Future Embrace, Billy Corgan looks to exorcise the demons of his past by simply ignoring them. However, if you think The Future Embrace sounds familiar, then you're probably not dreaming. The album steals much of its sound from the Smashing Pumpkins' album Adore, which itself was an attempt in many ways to sound like the Cure. The Future Embrace apparently has its focus not on creating a new sound like the title might suggest, but rather its focus is on looking at and embracing the future instead of the past.

Corgan made headlines, coincidentally, on the same day that The Future Embrace hit stores with news that he intended to reform his old band the Smashing Pumpkins. This news almost directly contradicts the focus of his new album. Why would Corgan release an album about moving on from the past and on the same day announce his intent to reform the Smashing Pumpkins, the one thing from his past that casts a larger shadow over his lanky frame than anything else? Maybe it's his way of saying that to live in the future you have to embrace the past. Or maybe he just had a change of heart.

The Future Embrace kicks off with the song "All Things Change" (ironic meaning, perhaps?), a song whose subject matter does nothing to betray its title and sounds like a Zwan outtake sans distorted guitars. It's the first of many songs that look at moving on from what's behind you, "Now (And Then)" and "I'm Ready" are the best other examples.

The lead single off the album, "The Cameraeye," pretty much sums up the entire disc in terms of sound. The bass is busy, the drums sound so processed and robotic that they almost have to have been played by a drum machine (they aren't), there are synth sounds that are very airy, and Corgan's guitar is there, too, although it sounds much like a synthesizer and is never loud or aggressive.

The Future Embrace is most lacking when it comes to melody; there's really nothing very memorable. The best song is the cover of "To Love Somebody," originally recorded by the Bee Gees. The only element that makes this song stand out from the rest of the album is the fact that it something you can sing along with; the instrumentation and effects are consistent with the rest of the album.

For his performance at the Pageant in St. Louis in June, Corgan was sullen and at times sulky, a direct contrast to his demeanor during his last show in St. Louis with Zwan in 2003. This time, the stage was decorated with a video and light-emitting backdrop that resembled the walls of a tiled bathroom, all the stands on stage were ornamented with gothic-like feet and poles, and Corgan and his hired hands were all dressed in black. The performance recreated the textural sounds of The Future Embrace perfectly, right down to every resonating guitar note and compressed drum strike. At the end, Corgan addressed the topic that everyone wanted to know about, the reuniting of the Smashing Pumpkins.

"The next time you see me, I'll be at the enormo-dome," he promised. "And I'll smash you into the dust under my heel with the metal." That's one guarantee that Corgan's fans are sure to give a "future embrace."

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: