Smashing Pumpkins’ reunion album debuts at No. 54 on Billboard charts. Is this the worst comeback album of the year?
After a shaky start to their reunion, Smashing Pumpkins' 'Shiny and Oh So Bright, Vol.1' fails to impress critics and tanks on the Billboard charts too. What went wrong?
At the turn of 2018, Smashing Pumpkins jumped on the bandwagon of the recent wave of 90s comeback acts. Well, technically it wasn't really a comeback considering they put out their last album 'Monuments to an Elegy' in 2014, but there was a unique angle to make it qualify - the Pumpkins were going to bring back their stellar original lineup of Billy Corgan, James Iha, Jimmy Chamberlain and D'Arcy Wretzky for the first time in two decades. However, things didn't exactly go as planned for the 90s alt-rockers.
The first sign of trouble came earlier this February, when former bassist D'Arcy Wretzky accused frontman Billy Corgan of manipulation and rescinding an offer to be part of the band’s reunion. A bitter game of he-said-she-said followed in the coming days which snowballed into a PR nightmare for the band as Wretzky started sharing texts between her and Corgan online to prove a point.
Ultimately, Wretzky was left out as three-fourths of the Pumpkins' original lineup teamed up with longtime guitarist Jeff Schroeder to announce 'The Shiny And Oh So Bright Tour', a 36-arena trek from July to September. That's when the second wave of trouble hit. As Consequence of Sound then reported, the ticket sales for the tour were lackluster at best, as the bands failed to fill out most of the venues outside of their hometown of Chicago and a couple of other cities in the vicinity.
my curiosity got the best of me... this tour is not selling ANYWHERE that isn't Chicago, NYC, or Connecticut (lol). even MSG still has a decent amount of tickets available for. Tour opener in AZ is weak too. pic.twitter.com/5eWwS3ldlQ— kyle matteson (@solace) February 23, 2018
Finally, their big moment of truth arrived earlier this month with the release of their "comeback" album, the elaborately titled 'Shiny and Oh So Bright Vol. 1/LP: No Past. No Future. No Sun.' While many longtime fans were just glad to finally have new material from their idols, the album was met with mixed reviews. Rolling Stone dismissed the effort as "infinitely sad" in their 2-star review. A more scathing review came from Pitchfork, who gave the album a mere 3.4/10 and decreed "the legends of ’90s alt-rock have reunited only to bring this puzzling, indecisive husk of an album into the world."
It doesn't seem like the album is faring any better commercially either. As Alternative Nation points out, 'Shiny and Oh So Bright, Vol. 1' debuted at No. 54 on the Billboard 200 album charts. Technically, it marks the band’s second-worst performing debut to date.
Understandably, the worst performing one was their now-landmark first album, 'Gish,' which initially debuted at 195. But that was a different time and the Pumpkins were a young, don't-give-a-damn group of rebels that were rebelling against... well, practically everything. As they found a foothold in the strangely wonderful 90s alternative era that followed the grunge scene and started finding a wider audience, 'Gish' was eventually certified platinum (one million copies sold) by the RIAA.
But now they're way past their MTV-teasing heydays and to think that 'Shiny And Oh So Bright Vol. 1' achieves the same feat would be slightly farfetched. Compared to more recent Pumpkins releases, 'Shiny and Oh So Bright, Vol. 1' debuted 20 slots lower than 2014’s 'Monuments to an Elegy', while 2012’s 'Oceania' and 2007’s 'Zeitgeist' both broke the Top 5.
In case you haven't' noticed, there's a pattern starting to build here and the reason might not really be the dominance of hip-hop over rock in the modern streaming age. The new album didn’t fare much better on the genre-specific album charts. It debuted at No. 8 on the Alternative Albums chart — one slot behind Panic at the Disco’s 'Pray For the Weekend', which was released five months ago. On the Rock Albums chart, 'Shiny and Oh So Bright, Vol. 1' appeared several slots below legacy releases like The Beatles’ 'White Album' and a collection of Queen’s greatest hits.
When we'd taken a look at the best and the worst of the 90s comeback acts of the last few years, we had made special note of System of a Down for reuniting eight years ago and actively touring, but still not putting out any original material. But as we'd noted then, and now again, surely putting out nothing at all is a much better statement than releasing something half-cooked. And, Smashing Pumpkins seem to have suddenly exemplified just that.
But Corgan is still not deterred by the shaky start. He recently said that he intends to release a follow-up to 'Shiny and Oh So Bright, Vol. 1' in 2019 and also revealed plans for a seasonal holiday album. Yikes! That's going to be one uncomfortably dark Christmas.
In an interview with Zane Lowe earlier this year, Corgan also revealed how the band has enough unreleased songs to "kill people with content". If things don't take a U-turn for the Pumpkins, we might be seeing those B-sides and rarities sooner than expected.
Meanwhile, here's a glimpse at what a Smashing Pumpkins' Christmas record might sound like.