William Patrick Corgan - Ogilala

by James Gerard Rating:7 Release Date:2017-10-13
William Patrick Corgan - Ogilala
William Patrick Corgan - Ogilala

It was clear from the beginning that Billy Corgan was the Smashing Pumpkin’s ‘Oz’, an artistic ringmaster with a seemingly insatiable artistic vision that he would ultimately indulge by writing and recording some of the 90's most important alt-rock albums.  And while the drama and headlines of the band’s initial split back and in 2000 may have left all but the most apologetic of fans split on where they draw the line with Corgan, the fact remains that the man has always marched to the beat of his own drum.

And so, after a decade which has seen Corgan resurrect the Pumpkin’s name for a series of tours and albums, assume a creative position with a regional wrestling company (only to wind up embroiled in a lawsuit), and finally reconnect with his former Pumpkins band mates, Corgan reportedly decided to shelve what would have been the next Smashing Pumpkins release in favor of working on what would become Ogilala; an intimate solo affair recorded by none other than Rick Rubin himself.

Choosing to bill himself as ‘William Patrick Corgan’ this time around, Ogilala is, if nothing else, an exercise in artistic restraint.  The sparsely produced, gothic-Americana is a welcome breath of fresh air for the perpetually tortured singer, especially when compared to his first solo-outing, the meandering electro-tinged mess that was 2008’s The Future Embrace.

From the piano drone that kicks off the album opener “Zowie” to the austere strumming of “The Spaniards”, it’s clear that Ogilala was purposefully constructed to showcase Corgan’s haunting voice and imagery-laden lyrics.  While songs like the upbeat “Processional” (which notably features a contribution from former Pumpkin’s alum James Iha) and the appropriately entitled “The Long Goodbye” are acoustic-guitar driven numbers, the album shines brightest during its most somber moments like the solo piano/vocal single “Aeronaut”.

While much of Ogilala is saturated with Corgan’s brooding songcraft, songs like the mid-record gem “Amarinthe” and the anthemic “Shilo” provide a tangible sense of ballast.  The closing track “Archer” is one of the album's strongest tracks and bookends what is perhaps the best Corgan release of the past decade.

While not without a few flaws (Corgan’s continuous use of a new-found vibrato is an unfortunate distraction during some of the record’s quieter moments), the sheer audacity of releasing a record so far removed from the public’s expectations at this stage in the game should be reason enough for fans to check out Ogilala.  Whether or not the release leaves fans satisfied or simply clamoring for the inevitable Pumpkins reunion seems beside the point as Ogilala clearly illustrates that the only member of Corgan’s audience that he is willing to cater to is himself.



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