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Billy Corgan and the Smashing Pumpkins seem finally ready to release their long-gestating album-in-an-album project, "Oceania," due June 19. And with the announcement, comes other indications of sea change.
The album is an incorporated part of Corgan's 44-song concept project "Teargarden by Kaleidyscope," which initially intended to thrwart the traditional album release schedule and promotional thinking. Corgan and Co. -- drummer Mike Byrne, bassist Nicole Fiorentino and guitarist Jeff Schroeder -- have released 10 official "Kaleidyscope" tracks, practically as they were being created, in a work-in-progress effort to bring singular attention to each song in consideration of the whole, which is a conceptual "Fool's Journey" through Tarot cards. The first eight tracks were packed into two different EPs, both released in 2010. The last "Kaleidyscope" song was released in May 2011.
So up until the news today, fans have been left to wonder what happened to that "journey" in the last 10 months, with talk of "Oceania," but not a specific idea of how it fit into the Kaleidyscopic vision, particularly since the band has been dropping tracks almost exclusively on their own.
"Oceania," as has been revealed, will be released through Corgan's own Martha's Music publishing with distribution and support from EMI Label Services and Caroline Distribution.
"The Smashing Pumpkins created Oceania as an album experience, and it is intended for the process of the release to follow a path of inclusion, so that best efforts are made for all the fans hear it at the same time as press or radio. We were excited to find partners in EMI Label Services that were equally passionate about the plan for the album release as well as being huge fans of the Pumpkins," says Peter Katsis in a statement.
Now just who the hell is Peter Katsis? He's the Pumpkins' new manager, but it helps to think of him as part of a revitalization effort on the whole. Katsis is part of the Prospect Park management firm, formed only a couple years ago, and with clients like Backstreet Boys, Ice Cube, Limp Bizkit and Guns N' Roses, all of whom have been in the news lately in terms of re-brandings: Backstreet Boys did a quick rebound with NKOTB last year. Limp Bizkit just recently signed to Cash Money, a shocking move from the hip-hop label. Ice Cube has started releasing his own music independently and Guns N' Roses have tried to shake off their bad reputation for being difficult to work with and putting on some disastrous live shows (plus have that whole Rock and Roll Hall of Fame thing coming up).
Corgan has some notoriety of his own: he's had public splits with bandmates, and many, many times; SP broke off from Q-Prime management at the end of the last century, even had a brief stint with Sharon Osbourne as manager and since the early aughts has been a bit lost in solidifying what he and the Smashing Pumpkins were anymore. They released "MACHINA/The Machines of God" in 2000 (which even the press release refuses to acknowledge); Corgan fronted Zwan, he put out a cold, difficult solo album in 2005; and then put Pumpkins back together for their last studio album, 2007's awful "Zeitgeist." The release of "Kaleidyscope" songs has been a little hard to follow, and the music itself has garnered a very mixed reaction.
Despite Corgan's best intentions, then, a traditional album may be the best way to tie a bow on the thing, an effective re-launch of a product that was originally intended to be a gradual roll-out. The deal with EMI seems to fit, considering they did a beautiful job repackaging deluxe editions of "Gish" and "Siamese Dream," early work that established just why Smashing Pumpkins became popular to begin with.
Of course, I'm not here to surmise if Corgan's best intentions have been compromised. It just appears that the Pumpkin carriage needed better steering, and it's a big job for Katsis and EMI to do it.