In the summer of 2005, when Billy Corgan took out a full-page ad in the Chicago Tribune to announce the reformation of the Smashing Pumpkins, few would have guessed we would get Zwan instead. But perhaps it was just wishful thinking on our part. After all, this reincarnation of the Pumpkins does feature the very same members as the short-lived Zwan: Corgan and drummer Jimmy Chamberlin. Zeitgeist, sadly, proves just as forgettable as their former outfit's first and only album, Mary Star of the Sea.
It's not for lack of trying (is it ever with Corgan?) — more like trying the wrong things. Corgan clearly intends the Pumpkins' official comeback to be a rock record. Most of the moody goth pretenses that characterized the band's post-Mellon Collie output have been ditched for squealing guitars and, um, squealing Corgan. But the songs themselves rarely do the band any favors. Proffered "rockers" like "Doomsday Clock" and "Tarantula" sound like rote exercises — songs in service of riffs as opposed to the other way around. And the less said about the 10-minute dirge "United States" — a direct descendant of "Jesus, I/Mary Star of the Sea" — the better. "We are stars," Corgan would have us believe (in "Starz"), but Zeitgeist is more prayer than persuading argument. — Jonathan Garrett