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Smashing Pumpkins: Adore

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The members of The Smashing Pumpkins have had a rough time in the past year or two: Drummer Jimmy Chamberlin was kicked out of the band following the drug death of touring keyboardist Jonathan Melvoin. Guitarist James Iha put out a solo album, the underrated Let It Come Down, which generated little interest. And pundits have loudly wondered how the group—also known as singer Billy Corgan—can top its massively ambitious, best-selling, double-length, ludicrously titled 1995 opus, Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness. Of course, the conventional wisdom is that with Adore, Corgan and company have looked inward, producing a quiet, introspective little record that eschews epic guitar feasts in favor of lilting, romantic ballads. But that's only partially true: Adore may be quiet, but Corgan doesn't really know how not to overreach, and with 16 songs spread out over 73 minutes, the album is plenty epic. In other words, Adore has more than its share of overlong songs and self-indulgent moments, yet the group's subtler approach reveals facets it hasn't shown before: "Appels + Oranjes," one of the best songs here, sounds like Corgan singing in New Order, while "Once Upon A Time" may be The Smashing Pumpkins' loveliest ballad to date. Chamberlin has been replaced with a drum machine and a revolving cast of session players—the songs only occasionally suffer for it—while the arrangements are otherwise built largely around clean guitar tones, pianos, and tinny electronic touches. But even without big, screaming electric guitars, Adore still sounds unmistakably grandiose and ambitious, revealing new quirks and tricks with each successive listen. These days, not many acts make records that need to be absorbed in multiple sittings, and Corgan and his band deserve credit for doing just that, as well as for resisting the temptation to merely imitate their past successes.