CYR is The Smashing Pumpkins eleventh album and part two to 2018’s Shiny and Oh So Bright, Vol. 1 / LP: No Past. No Future. No Sun. Whilst releasing subsequent parts/chapters to LP’s is nothing new; the uniqueness about CYR is that seldom musical comparisons can be made between this offering and its predecessor’. CYR has 20 full-length tracks produced by Billy Corgan which is dominated by synths and electronic engineering whilst Shiny and Oh So Bright consists of eight songs and is an organic Rick Rubin produced effort of raw electronic guitars, strings and piano.
Corgan’s aim with CYR was to embrace everything technology had to offer: “But then I realized that when I first heard Siouxsie and the Banshees, Sisters of Mercy and Joy Division, they were making very modern music by using the technology that they had at hand. So I had to get inside the choices that they made.”
Opening with “The Colour of Love” one immediately sees parallels to The Editors, The Back Room, albeit in a more sanguine manner. The soothing and almost angelic female backing vocals mask any intended adrenaline-fuelled angst and anguish The Smashing Pumpkins are known to evoke. Nonetheless, the authentic lyrics from the “anguished, bruised reports from Billy Corgan’s nightmare-land” such as “And the colour of your love is grey. Of ash and mud and time slipped away” continue to pleasantly invade one’s nerves.
Whilst The Editors based sound diminishes the EDM sound continues with “Confessions of a Dopamine Addict” which gets raunchier and more disco across “CYR”. The first truly distinctive organic sound is the piano to the opening on “Dulcet in E” which fades to synth-pop, processed drums and synth keys which evokes a soundtrack that is a bit too cheery and upbeat for what is expected and to an extent demanded from The Smashing Pumpkins. Whilst Corgan continues to offer great and gloomy lyrics “No flower outlives its raindrop. No tower outlives its hilltop. I’m necromancer and your balm”; they are sadly overlooked by an almost feel-good cacophony.
“Ramona” impresses because one can hear the strumming of the acoustic guitar and a consistent bassline throughout which continues as “Ramona” gives way to “Anno Satana” which also sees the electric guitar play a significant part as Corgan sings how “death will change your heart”. Whilst the EDM elements continue across these songs; they work well because they are minor and understated.
CYR peaks with “Wyttch” because the guitars with their haunting ambience are present from the outset which does not diminish or give way to EDM, processed or synthetic elements. The lyrics “Black turns forever turns to sleep. Black turns confessor turns to reap” find their ideal home here. Sadly the following song “Starrcraft” sounds like a modern pop song fused with dance and overly jubilant handclapping. Whilst Corgan sings about “The blackest night”; the beat and ambience suggest otherwise.
Much of CYR continues with EDM elements along with synthetic and processed sounds which often dilute Corgan’s still unnervingly gripping lyrics. The noble exception where this formula works is “Adrennalynne” which is attention-grabbing, hungry and fierce without the electronic guitar, piano or heavy and distorted basslines. It feels like a confessional as Billy chants “When you’re on the stage, that’s life”. The other standout tracks are “Purple Blood” and “Save Your Tears” where EDM (especially on the latter) plays a significant role, yet it’s the organic electronic guitars and drums that take the lead.
Billy Corgan evidently felt that if he did not embrace new technology then his band would risk becoming too engulfed in a musical orthodoxy that meandered back and forth between Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness and Adore. When technology plays a minor role and at times and equal role on CYR there are some impressive results. Sadly when technology replaces the ethereal effects of the guitars and drums the poignancy and meaning behind Corgans’s still unnerving and eloquent lyrics don’t always reach their haunting zenith. Whilst unintended, the musical backdrops occasionally sound trendy. This is unfortunate since the raison d’être of The Smashing Pumpkins LP’s such as their second LP Siamese Dream was to be the “big middle finger to the indie world”.