QUICKSPINS: ATUM: Act One by Smashing Pumpkins

Billy Corgan and Co. have released yet another concept album, now in three Acts! 

To those who are saying Autumn is over, no it isn’t, ATUM has just been released! The Smashing Pumpkins’ new LP ATUM Part One just came out on Friday, Nov. 18. This is part of a concept album trilogy dubbed “A Rock Opera In Three Parts” that the band has prepared: Billy Corgan, James Iha, Jimmy Chamberlin, Jack Bates and Jeff Schroeder. 

This is their first full batch of content that’s been released since 2020, so you know they’ve taken their time honing their songwriting craft. Or have they slipped up? Let’s dive right in.

We start with the intro track “ATUM.” This instrumental track made its debut while the band was touring, before the release of the album. It honestly feels like one big epic sports sting that ESPN would use. Other than that, it introduces the album by giving it a sense of grandiose synthesis mixed with their buzzsaw guitar tone (courtesy of the Big Muff pedal that Corgan and Iha love to use). Keep that phrase at the ready, because there will be a lot more songs that incorporate this grandiose atmosphere.  

The second track on the album is “Butterfly Suite.” The more mature version of their single “Ava Adore” was released in 1998 when they were becoming more experimental with their tracks, incorporating electronic drumkits and bass and pad synths. They took it up a notch with “Butterfly Suite” by adding their post-grunge grittiness by using heavily distorted guitars. 

As for memorable songs from ATUM: Act One, songs like “The Good in Goodbye,” “Embracer,” and “Hooligan” reminded me of the many layers to a song Corgan would weave with each other. He truly has evolved from his seven layers of rhythm guitar in their 1994 release Siamese Dream

However, not every song was amazing or memorable. There were a couple that were downright questionable at the very least. “Steps in Time,” which was one of my top 3 tracks from the LP, had a great melody that became tasteless after it repeated for the whole song. 

Also Billy Corgan, if you are out there reading this, I just want to ask one question: What is the concept of “Hooray!”? Who other than you thought that “Hooray!” was a valid concept? Why is “Hooray!” in this album lineup? It’s like you, 1982 Prince, and a ’90s kids’ show had a lovechild.      

So, my honest thoughts on this album? It’s a great fusion of new synthwave with the band’s old post-grunge grit. Rock Opera? Maybe more like Synth Alternative Rock, but don’t underestimate it. Billy Corgan always delivers good content with concept albums.  

Trial Track: Butterfly Suite 

Score: 7/10

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