The latest version of The Smashing Pumpkins — including new drummer Mike Byrne (who fills heavy shoes) and new bassist Nicole Fiorentino — have recently unveiled the first official track from its second EP, Teargarden by Kaleidyscope, Vol. 2: The Solstice Bare. “Freak” is available online and for download at no charge. Billy Corgan notes that the 11 EPs he and the band envision will indeed be part of a larger project, an ambitious box set that will entail some 44 songs.
Unlike the previous Teargarden EP, “Freak” largely explores and builds on the Smashing Pumpkins’ earlier, mid-1990s sound while also very subtly hinting at the newly pointed and cultish, lysergic musical atmosphere of, say, “Astral Planes”. In fact, the swirling, hypnotic guitar bit that accompanies the principal riff is nothing but reminiscent of “Astral Planes”. But mainly the song is a marked departure from the first EP in that it doesn’t evince any sort of Led Zeppelin-oriented influence, as did both “A Song for a Son” and “A Stitch in Time”. Instead, “Freak” is particularly indebted to the uncompromisingly grungy B-sides found on Pisces Iscariot (1994). The song “Plume”, for instance, may be a credible forerunner, save that its riff is rather slow and contained. Nirvana’s In Utero (1993) also is a noticeable influence.
Lyrically, Jim Morrison’s sense of the dramatic attracts Corgan. Doors’ songs “Not to Touch the Earth” and the 11-minute rant-theatre “When the Music’s Over” (“What have they done to the earth?”) are unmistakable and flat-out obvious influences, as both are provocative and negotiate with the same topic of “Freak”. Corgan’s verse also seems a bona fide diatribe against the “killing machine”, especially during the largest oil spill in U.S. history. All of this with the Beatlesque honey of “La da da da da da da la da da da da da da da da da”. Corgan partially occludes his distinctive vitriol with the melodic and infectious. That is, “Freak” parallels Mellon Collie’s “Zero” but that the emphatic mellifluousness reigns supreme relative to the latter’s overt anger and angst.