If Zeitgeist was the loud, swift kick that the Smashing Pumpkins needed to herald their triumphant ride into 2007 on a thunderstorm, their American Gothic EP is a peaceful, good-willed acknowledgment that 2008 is going to be a mellow after-party. Corgan and company wouldn’t let go of their electric instruments on the former, so this time they grab a handy acoustic instrument and perform a lullaby across four new songs, as if to remind us that the bald man with the nasal voice can still serenade as well as berate us. “I’ll lay roses at your feet”, Corgan promises gently in the lilting “Rose March”. But his band has gone from one extreme to another, and no amount of optimistic embellishment can mask how tired and half-baked these leftover melodies are. Zeitgeist at least had its crashing layers of noise to compensate, but here nothing stops opener “Rose March” from being completely forgettable apart from a syrupy ‘la-la-la’ backing that is smeared half-heartedly across it like honey. Corgan is a talented guitarist, yet he seems content to chuck out dreamy three-note riffs on an acoustic throughout the EP, and the My Bloody Valentine textures don’t come off well at all in a stripped-down setting. To add insult to injury, the singer sounds asleep on the job; never before has a declaration of love (“Again, Again, Again”) sounded so flat and sarcastic. I think I’ll join him in slumber—American Gothic on a whole is a snooze-fest chapter in the return of the Pumpkins that is best skipped.
// Notes from the Road
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