William Patrick Corgan – ‘Ogilala’ (Martha’s Music/BMG) Print
CD Reviews
Written by Rich Hobson   
Friday, 13 October 2017 04:00

WPC Ogilala coverYup, that William Patrick Corgan. As the visionary (and only core member) behind Smashing Pumpkins, it’s fair to say that WPC (or Billy, as you likely recognise him) can’t take a shit these days without somebody asking if it’s a sign that his flagship band are ready for a classic line-up reunion. How refreshing it must be then, to shed the trappings and expectations of Smashing Pumpkins and start afresh with a solo tag, free to create anything he likes. It’s a nice idea in theory, anyway.

 

Truth is, even away from Smashing Pumpkins, Billy is never really going to be able to fully distance himself from the shadow that his main band cast. Luckily, those shadows provide some handy spots of shade throughout ‘Ogilala’. While there are those that might argue that most Smashing Pumpkins releases post-2000 have essentially been solo releases (and we get it – we love the first four Pumpkins albums too, now let it go), ‘Ogilala’ is only Corgan’s second solo release, dropping a full 12 years after ‘TheFutureEmbrace’.

 

As the title suggests, ‘TheFutureEmbrace’ saw Corgan indulge his more industrial and electronica leaning songwriting talents, the resultant record distinctly flavoured as something which might suit the NIN camp than the Pumpkins. ‘Ogilala’ doesn’t follow in that vein; instead, it is a record which is Corgan through and through, a record which settles comfortably in the realms of the aforementioned Pumpkins quadrilogy of releases – so much for cutting away the past.

 

But then, why would you want to? The whole reason Corgan rose to fame and prominence in the first place was for his incredible songwriting and composition prowess and those talents are very much on display during ‘Ogilala’. Balancing on a knife edge between stripped-back, bare-bones acoustic compositions and swells of ‘Infinite Sadness’-like symphony, Corgan at once evokes a sense of misty-eyed nostalgia whilst also reaffirming himself as one of the best songwriters/composers of his era.

 

The gentle guitar-work on each track will likely leave listeners fondly dreaming of the likes of ‘Spaceboy’ or ‘Disarm’, but the truth is Rick Rubin’s production elevates the tones of ‘Ogilala’’s guitars to entirely different and better levels. While Corgan has always had a reputation for being a studio fanatic, the truth is ‘Ogilala’ pierces with crystal clarity that has somehow evaded Corgan’s previous releases. Each element of every composition pops in the ears, leaving the listener smiling from ear to ear as they remember what it was like to fall in love with Corgan’s craft the first time around and lending a greater appreciation for what Corgan can achieve when he isn’t trying to live up to a name.

 

 

As sparse as Corgan is ever likely to sound, ‘Ogilala’ strips away the noise that surrounds Corgan, leaving him floating amidst a sea of gentle melodies. While this might be disappointing for those hoping to find the stylistic extremes so often found (and revered) with his other band, it suits the tone of a solo album perfectly, feeling less like the cast-offs from other projects and lending the album a life of its own.

 

The melodramatic touches that signal the start of the album on ‘Zowie’ are a reaffirmation of the best things that Corgan does. It might be hard to recognise now, especially for younger listeners, but Corgan’s unique turns of phrase and use of imagery have formed a large part of the past twenty years’ alternative and rock releases, so while a line like “Cain isn’t Able to build a superstar” might come across as hackneyed or cliché in the hands of an act like Motionless in White or My Chemical Romance, Corgan is the wellspring from which those bands originally drew inspiration.

 

‘Processional’ takes a very different approach to the album open, creating a warmer and more positive atmosphere that feels very Pumpkins-esque. The fact that it features the talents of founding member James Iha is likely no coincidence. Changing tracks yet again for ‘The Spaniards’, we are treated to a song which relies more heavily on vocal melodies – which, considering the unique quality of Corgan’s voice, is by no means a bad thing.

 

 

Each track on ‘Ogilala’ is flavoured with a unique essence and tone, giving the album a cohesive and enjoyable feel. Ballad-heavy albums can often sag badly as the novelty wears off, but Corgan is able to slip in enough variation and tonal pay-offs that the listener is kept glued to the speakers. Melancholic but never mopey, ‘Ogilala’ paints an intimate picture of the artist away from his more bombastic elements. Despite this, the album isn’t an entirely naked portrait of Corgan; there is still plenty more that could be stripped away, though that then begs the question as to whether one could live with a Billy Corgan release without any stylistic flourish.

 

Much as he did for Johnny Cash, Rick Rubin offers the music of William Patrick Corgan a lung full of fresh air, taking it away from Corgan’s more experimental tendencies and offering only guitar, piano and light synth to give each track plenty of space to grow of its own accord. By his own admission, Corgan would likely have tinkered with each song much more given the opportunity, so to hear these songs in their base form is a rare insight into the formative stages of a Corgan composition, before the gloss can be applied.

 

Clocking in at just over 35 minutes and keeping almost every song beneath the four-minute mark (with only ‘The Spaniards’ narrowly crossing over), ‘Ogilala’ is a record which never outstays its welcome, each track a fresh and enjoyable stroll through the mental pathways of William Patrick Corgan. While it isn’t likely to storm the gates of the rock world and demand the highest seat in the land, the album is a perfect exercise in reinvention, a sonic reset button which erases the scoreboard and allows Corgan to express himself anew.

 

The world may be braying for a new Pumpkins album, or a reformation tour, or a combination of the two, but until then we can rest assured that William Patrick Corgan is doing what he always has. He is writing; he is performing and he is excelling, sharpening his pen for the day he will once again inhabit the seat of crown-prince of alternative music.

 

‘Ogilala’ is released on today (Friday 13 October). You can get your copy HERE.


www.facebook.com/BillyCorgan/

 

All content © Über Rock. Not to be reproduced in part or in whole without the express written permission of Über Rock.