On June 21, 2005, Billy Corgan took out a full-page ad in a pair of Chicago newspapers to let everyone know that he was bringing his Smashing Pumpkins back from the dead. The timing was curious, since it coincided with the release of his solo debut, and the subsequent two-year waiting period for a new release has helped produce some big expectations for the second-most-important band in the history of alternative rock. But Corgan has been here before: Gish seemed unbeatable before Siamese Dream showed up, and then came Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness, which, in spite of its name, bloated nature, and that raging rat in a cage, deserved all its accolades. Even Zwan and the solo album were excellent against all odds, but with Zeitgeist, Corgan hasn't risen to his own big occasion.
"Doomsday Clock" begins the proceedings with an "I Am One"-like opening drumbeat from Jimmy Chamberlin, and soon it's apparent that in Corgan's mind, "I want my band back" meant "Baby, let's rock." (Actually getting the group back together clearly wasn't the most important part of the equation, since D'Arcy and James Iha are nowhere to be found on Zeitgeist.) As in the old days, Corgan is constantly reaching for the rafters with huge, hard-rocking guitars and lyrics suggesting trouble, but the songs themselves just aren't as triumphant. Instead of capturing the climate of an era, Zeitgeist ends up sounding like a Corgan career retrospective in B-side form: "That's The Way (My Love Is)" could have been on Mary Star Of The Sea, "Tarantula" on Mellon Collie, "For God And Country" on TheFutureEmbrace, etc., but none of them would have made the final album cut. To their credit, he and Chamberlin never sound like they're phoning it in, which means that maybe they're getting warmed up. Then again, it could just be that they're spent.