<p>The Smashing Pumpkins’ latest is half good and half dreary</p>

In 2014, Billy Corgan said he believed the Smashing Pumpkins album Monuments to a Elegy would receive positive reviews. “But I get the same ratings I got back then,” he complained. “Those kind of mediocre, confusing reviews that just don’t say, ‘This is a brilliant album by a brilliant artist.'” It was a tedious remark from many musicians who feel abused or underestimated by critics. Corgan of all people knows, however, that his big mouth is often the cause of the band’s biggest problems: “If I shut up and kept my band together,” he told the New York Times in September, “we would play it [bigger] Venues and we would be much more successful. “

Meanwhile, the fatigue caused by the band’s early antics – drugs, ego wars, and Corgan’s reputation as a self-described “bitter antagonist” – has influenced their music. CYR, their 11th studio album, features original members James Iha and Jimmy Chamberlin, who returned to the group in 2018. But even that is not enough to rekindle the spark that earned the band four consecutive platinum albums in their heyday in the nineties. They seem to have forgotten how to stage songs with the drama “Tonight, Tonight” with its cinematic strings and Corgan’s scorching delivery.

Instead, CYR consists of 20 songs that alternate between good and bleak. Two tracks – “Wrath” and “Ramona” – are practically interchangeable; others, like “Birch Grove”, are strangled by saccharin synths. In another interview, Corgan recently referred to the band as “pop assassins,” and indeed, some of these songs are their most pop-friendly yet – they make a great impression of The Killers on “Minerva.” They’re best on “Purple Blood,” a great rock mix of growling guitars, sharp drums, and Corgan’s weird whining. Public figures are often controversial when they struggle to offer something substantial. Perhaps that, and the standard of this album, explains Corgan’s antics over the last few years.

steps – – What the future brings

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Steps have always been cheeky. Her always cheerful demeanor was a staple of the late 1990s; Since then, they have steadfastly refused to change their sound to keep up with the trends in modern music. So it’s amusing that this year’s What the Future Holds, a sugary rush of high-octane bangers, fits so well with the onslaught of maximalist dance-pop in 2020. After more than two decades, steps are finally trendy.

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However, for an album that claims to be thinking about the future, the sound is mostly retro. They stay true to their ABBA influences on the wonderfully dramatic “Something in Your Eyes” with synthesizers and cheering key changes. Jerky techno impulses dominate the opener “What the Future Holds”, written by Sia and Greg Kurstin, while Kylie’s “To the One” contains more than just a hint of Kylie.

Sometimes the sheer intransigence of the album’s animated tempo can start to crack. Fortunately, they slow things down and turn up the heat on “Under My Skin,” a song that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Little Mix album. In a year marked by dire headlines, steps feel exactly as the doctor ordered. However, your dentist may not be that happy.