No one has ever accused Billy Corgan of lacking in ambition. The nineties alt-icon only recently put himself on equal footing to his “rival,” Kurt Cobain. He’s released mammoth records, redone other musicians’ parts on his releases, had his own random spin-off band (Zwan), fired & rehired band members, and more. In a way, it’s surprising that it took this long for a Smashing Pumpkins multi-album rock opera, the three-record Atum: A Rock Opera in Three Acts, that is pretty much exactly what you’d expect from a Smashing Pumpkins self-described “rock opera”.
There is apparently some grand plot behind it all, some sort of sequel to both 1995’s seminal Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness and 2000’s Machina/The Machines of God, involving a rock star character from those two (called “Zero” and “Glass” on respective records, now known as “Shiny”) returning from a long exile. Or something. Apparently you really need to listen to Corgan’s new podcast to decipher it all – and that comes with listening to the opinions of a guy who’s been a guest on InfoWars.
Like 2020’s Cyr (QRO review) but only more so, there are great songs and a lot of other songs over the thirty-three tracks (with ten more bonus songs on the physical box set…). The Smashing Pumpkins’ epic rock comes through great on pieces such as One’s “Steps in Time”, Two’s rock attack “Empires”, and Three’s emotional uplift “Spellbinding”. But there are also a lot of synths, because that’s what happens to our twentieth century guitar icons in this millennium, not done badly, which really blend into each other over the many, many tracks. The ‘opera’ concept does lend itself to some stronger hope with the likes of One’s “Where Rain Must Fall”, Two’s “Every Morning”, and Three’s “Avalanche”.
So, accept Atum for what it is, kind of like how a fan has to treat Billy Corgan as a whole. He and Atum are not as monumentally great as he clearly wants both to be, but there is also serious quality from the accomplished artist.