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Billy Corgan

After so much give and take, after growing so close to the Great Pumpkin through so many years of intimacy, we all want Billy Corgan's solo debut to burst like a golden light through the storm clouds of his recent meandering. The Pumpkins didn't end well. Zwan was divisive. But we've stayed with Corgan through pouty self-indulgence, and we're ready to love again.

So, Billy, we have to ask, where's the light? This is tunelessness in the name of breaking new ground. This is hazy, meandering murk. "Walking Shade," the first single, plays like a Depeche Mode tape warped from age, with Corgan's bittersweet twitter checking in over a bad phone line. Over and over, formless guitar wash and stilted rhythm almost coalesce into what lay people call a "song" -- but is merely the ebb of a tide. Corgan's bleak, sterile cover of the Bee Gees' "To Love Somebody" supposedly features the Cure's Robert Smith swimming up somewhere in the fizz, but it's merely another over-overdubbed, aimless exercise. Album opener "All Things Change" and "Dia" -- which feature former Pumpkin smasher Jimmy Chamberlin on real drums -- glimmer with the melodic wist that made Corgan's earlier work so achingly beautiful. But all drone and no play means there isn't much to hang onto here. Corgan needs a band to harangue, personalities to domineer. No conflict means no resolution, and that's exactly the problem here.

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Jonathan Zwickel

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