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Sound Check

June 28, 2012
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By Chad Taylor

Smashing Pumpkins



Theseus’ Paradox was a thought problem first put forth by the Greek essayist Plutarch. In a nutshell, the question it poses is: Does an object that’s had its entire component pieces replaced remain, fundamentally, the same object? It’s a good question for the Smashing Pumpkins. Front man Billy Corgan has replaced the entire original line-up, and even Corgan’s own voice has deepened and mellowed over the years since the “Mellon Collie” creative high point. The result, as far as it relates to “Oceania,” is an album that — while technically solid — feels devoid of the driving emotion that made the Pumpkins so viscerally important to fans in the first place. There’s nothing on “Oceania” that feels like a klunker, but there’s nothing that feels all that vital, either. All the band’s contempt and anger has been replaced by a kind of ennui that just leaves you flat. CV

The Flaming Lips

‘The Flaming Lips and Heady Fwends’

Warner Brothers

As a general rule, Flaming Lips albums are good for two things: listening to while you’re high on your drug of choice and getting second year art majors into bed. As a band, the Lips put on an amazing, first rate, not-to-be-missed live show. But that’s 70 percent spectacle and 30 percent sound. With the spectacle removed, Flaming Lips albums too often are unfocused, meandering experiments in raw sound. “Heady Fwends” is exactly that, only with the added benefit of guest artists ranging from Erykah Badu to Yoko Ono to Chris Martin to Ke$ha. Lips front man Wayne Coyne is capable of flashes of absolute brilliance, and the album does have high points: Badu’s cover of “The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face” and the Neon Indian assisted “Is David Bowie Dying?” are revelatory. But outside of those transcendent moments, there’s almost no difference between the Flaming Lips and the Grateful Dead. CV

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