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CD Reviews:
Listening Room: Smashing Pumpkins, Gogol Bordello and more...

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Sunday, July 8, 2007

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Smashing Pumpkins, “Zeitgeist” (Martha’s Music/Reprise) ***

It’s been seven years since the last album of new Smashing Pumpkins music, but in truth, the band has been away in name only. Frontman Billy Corgan’s work during the interim — with the short-lived Zwan (which also included Pumpkins drummer Jimmy Chamberlin) and a single solo album — proved once and for all that the “band” was a really a title for Corgan’s artistry, meaning his decision to resume working under the Pumpkins name, which he announced in a 2005 newspaper ad, was made for both creative and commercial reasons. So “Zeitgeist” is more continuum than rebirth, although the reconnection has spurred the best thing to come from Corgan since the 1995 double-disc “Melon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.” Produced by Corgan and Chamberlin, with help from formidable record makers Roy Thomas Baker and Terry Date, “Zeitgeist” rolls together everything that’s ever touched the Pumpkins sound — metal, punk, glam rock, moody New Wave, rich pop melodies — sometimes all in the same song. That’s certainly true of the album’s first single, “Tarantula,” a joyously messy smorgasbord that gallops from style to style. “United States” is a nearly 10-minute sonic onslaught, while “Starz,” “Bring the Light” and “(Come On) Let’s Go!” are full-fisted anthems that bring some uplift to the album’s mostly downcast countenance. “Zeitgeist” ends with Corgan announcing, and perhaps celebrating, that “we can fail in style,” but it mostly succeeds — with a style that does justice to the Pumpkins’ reactivated name.


Gogol Bordello, “Super Taranta!” (SideOneDummy) ***

The “gypsy punk” tag this New York troupe has taken for itself is an apt title for its barely hinged blend of Eastern European party sounds and rock sensibilities. Fiddles, accordions and guitars careen and crash into each other amidst drunken choral singing and frontman Eugene Hutz’s frenzied ringmaster lead vocals. Politically minded tracks such as “Zina-Marina” and “Forces of Victory” weave some rock guitar crunch into the mix, and while there’s some serious social commentary in “Tribal Connection,” “Your Country” and “Harem in Tuscany (Taranta),” “American Wedding” offers a humorous comparison of cultural practices here and abroad. If the world is going to hell, Gogol Bordello plans to party on, and we should all order some of what they’re having.


Aly & AJ, “Insomniac” (Hollywood) — The blonde sister duo’s third album is the hottest thing in the teen world until “High School Musical 2,” although their PG is starting to head toward a PG13.

B-Side Players, “Youth” (Concord/Picante) — The San Diego troupe continues to explore and mix various world styles on its seventh album.

Bad Religion, “New Maps of Hell” (Epitaph) — The longlived punk rock icons recorded their latest album amid other activities ranging from books and university teaching to touring with Tenacious D.

Buffalo Tom, “Three Easy Pieces” (Ammal/New West) — The Boston modern trio’s original lineup regroups for its first set of new material in nine years.

Crowded House, “Time on Earth” (ATO) — The pop force from Down Under regroups for its first new studio album in 14 years. Guess we only dreamed it was over.

Jesse Harris, “Feel” (Velour) — The Grammy-winning troubadour and Norah Jones collaborator recorded his seventh album in just three days.

Interpol, “Our Love to Admire” (Capitol) — The New York modern rockers move to a major label for their third album, which is its first since 2004.

Jason Isbell, “Sirens of the Ditch” (New West) — The former Drive-By Truckers guitarist enlisted many of his exbandmates to help make his solo debut.

Stephen Kellogg & the Sixers, “Glassjaw Boxer”

(Everfine) — Ringing Americana from the hard-touring rock troupe, produced by Whiskeytown alumnus Mike Daly.

Kool & the Gang, “Still Kool” (New Door) — The veteran R&B group’s first set of new material in 10 years will give longtime fans an opportunity to — you guessed it — celebrate good times.

Mark Ronson, “Version” (Allido/RCA) — A set of covers from the man who put hit grooves behind Amy Winehouse, Lily Allen and Christina Aguilera.

Fionn Regan, “End of History” (Lost Highway) — The Irish singer-songwriter’s debut has been getting rave reviews across the pond since its release there in September.

Kim Richey, “Chinese Boxes” (Vanguard) — The veteran songwriter enlisted Giles Martin, son of Beatles producer George, for her first new album in five years.

Chris and Rich Robinson, “Brothers of a Feather” (Eagle) — A live set from the Black Crowes siblings’ 2006 acoustic tour.

Soundtrack, “Hairspray”

(New Line) — Songs from a movie adapted from a musical adapted from a movie. It’s as clear as John Travolta channeling Divine, in drag.

Spoon, “Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga” (Merge) — The sixth full-length album from the hip — and getting hipper — Austin quartet.

They Might Be Giants, “Else” (Zoe) — The clever duo enlisted the Dust Brothers (Beastie Boys, Beck) to help make their first pop album in three years

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