Now, a decade after his star shone as bright as it probably ever will, Corgan has stepped out on his own with an album influenced by the '60s, '70s, and especially the '80s, but which contains none of the soft-loud-soft-loud '90s rock he played such a major role in popularizing. With production help from Bjorn Thorsrud and Nitzer Ebb's Bon Harrisâ"both of whom worked on the Pumpkins' most synthetic release, Adoreâ"TheFutureEmbrace is an electronically charged album full of manufactured beats and dominating keys. But thanks to Adore, Corgan's trademark whine and melodies, and grand statements like "We can change the world," TheFutureEmbrace isn't all that shocking, even when Robert Smith pops in to help out with a Cure-y minor-key remake of Bee Gees' "To Love Somebody." The album opens with "All Things Change," propelled by a simple canned drumbeat and a wash of restrained '80s guitar, which sets the tone for the next 41 minutes.
Many musicians seem to have a difficult time copping to their actual influences (e.g. Gavin Rossdale name-dropping Slint), but Corgan is willing to give shout-outs to everyone from David Bowie to Joy Division to The Sisters Of Mercy to Echo & The Bunnymen. This is all stuff the 38-year-old Corgan grew up with, so he knows what he's doing, and he's done an excellent job of avoiding the derivative trap so many current retro acts are stuck in. But it also means that TheFutureEmbrace is a bit colder than what's expected of Corgan, especially after Zwan's celebratory Mary Star Of The Sea, and it goes without saying that he's handed in his trendsetter badge. But the fact remains that he's a pop showman, and regardless of the vehicle, he's going to continue writing transcendent sing-along rock songs from the heart. And even though the New Order-esque "Mina Loy (M.O.H.)" (with lyrics inspired by Corgan's dirty-bomb paranoia) and the dramatic, Psychedelic Furs-flavored "DIA" aren't going to knock Mariah Carey or Gwen Stefani off the top of the charts, he's still worth the price of admission.