QUICKSPINS – ATUM Act II by The Smashing Pumpkins

The ’90s post-grunge band releases the second act of their Opera Rock concept trilogy

The rock opera album ATUM (more like synth-wave opera) returns for Act II of III, after almost three months of anticipation since the first act. The story of said Opera Act is of an “epic interplanetary story set in the not-too-distant future,” according to Tinnitist

The first track is “Avalanche,” and let me just say, it could not be a sweeter start to the second act. Billy Corgan’s daughter steps into the limelight for the first 30 seconds, chanting the mantra “We hope someday we’ll find out what happiness means.” This was done by Corgan to ensure that his daughter didn’t get jealous. Why you may ask? Well, her brother (Corgan’s son) got a chance to sing on a previous album CYR, so naturally, Corgan had to include her. 

After a reiteration of the quote with a vocoder, a ’90s midwestern post-grunge riff leads the song into a wall of symphonic rock. You gotta give it to guitarists Jeff Schroeder and James Iha to give a feeling of carefreeness that really captures the story that Corgan wanted to convey.    

The album takes an edgy turn with “Moss.” Guitarist Iha employs a sinister chord progression. There is a backup singer by the name of Katie Cole who literally sings the word “meow” in the song. The main lyrics start, “You didn’t see what you saw, you didn’t hear what you heard,” which sounds like Corgan is showcasing how social media distracts you from big conflicts and bad things going on in the world with cat videos. 

“Night Waves” was one of the tracks that’s heavily pop-ified. Starting off with synth arpeggio — which wouldn’t seem out of place in a Wreck-it Ralph movie — the verses combine  Jimmy Chamberlain’s drums that have been bit-crunched to sound as though they were part of a similar retro 16-bit video game.   

The most notable songs on the album for me have to be “Empires,” “Moss,” and “Beguiled.” My favourite is “Beguiled” because it has the perfect blend of Siamese Dream / Melon Collie Smashing Pumpkins and synthp — sorry, rock opera Smashing Pumpkins. Sorry, Billy, you can’t fool some of us. The heavy buzz-saw guitar chugs with dark pad synths? Classic you!

Although it fell just short of what it could have become, as the peak of the trilogy (since it is the second act), the album just shows that they were able to adapt. The band was able to try something new and they were not afraid to put it out. For this, I thank The Smashing Pumpkins for not fading away from the limelight due to stubbornness. 

Trial Track: “Beguiled.”

Rating: 7/10


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