[sic] Magazine

Smashing Pumpkins – Teargarden by Kaleidyscope Volume 1.

I’m a little pathetic where the Smashing Pumpkins are concerned — I scrabble to get my hands even on their lesser works, like the EPs and singles. And the latest thing I scrabble after is ‘Teargarden by Kaleidyscope Volume 1: Songs for a Sailor,’ the first part of a vast megasized concept album based on four phases of the Tarot. Don’t ask me — I don’t know the first thing about it.

Apparently Billy Corgan’s idea is to create a vast 44-song collection that is going to be dribbled out slowly over the next few years, one song at a time (and apparently it will eventually be collected in one big set when Corgan’s done with the project). And while the limited-edition EP is WAY expensive for the casual collector (an obelisk?), the songs here are definitely promising.

‘A Song for a Son’ is a mellow, expansive piece that rings with melancholy. While the electric guitars start to rise over the piano-led melody, Corgan wails about dead doves, stars, children and “a tailor/Who stitched up my old heart.” Having spent that song revving up, Corgan switches into the spluttery, energetic ‘Widow Take My Mind.’

‘Astral Planes’ sees the band switching over into a blaring, supernova of a rock song, with plenty of simmering bass and sprawling proggy riffs. Somehow it just didn’t connect with me. And finally there’s ‘A Stitch in Time,’ which is the complete opposite of the song before it — a sparkly shimmery pop melody that undulates with what sounds like sitar.

Apparently the whole idea behind the ‘Teargarden by Kaleidyscope’ mega-album is that rather than cobbling together a conventional album, Corgan will create it as he goes along, polishing each song until it shines. Maybe it’ll work, and maybe it won’t — but the first of eleven EPs is promising.

And as befits an art-rock concept album, the music is brilliant — stately piano, wild drums by Mike Byrne, and some simmering basslines from Mark Tulin. Corgan’s guitar skills are amazing here, with sprawling riffs that can be proggy, razor-edged, shredding or twisting wild things. The lyrics have spurts of lameness, though — ‘Widow’ is oversaturated with “ohs!” and ‘Astral Plane’s’ lyrics are over-simplistic. But ‘Stitch’s’ warm psychedelic lyrics are lovely (“You’re everywhere at once, and you can’t catch me, watch out!”).

Apparently this limited EP version also comes with a two-song vinyl single (which I can’t even play!), a stone obelisk (I’m not sure why) and a wooden box. Way too overpriced, in my humble opinion.

There are still forty songs to go before we know how good the complete ‘Teargarden by Kaleidyscope’ will be. Volume 1 isn’t perfect, but Corgan’s passion shines brightly.