"Take me as I am."
This isn't the first solo album by Billy Corgan, but it is a very fine first work by William Patrick Corgan.
Corgan, introduced first as the frontman of Smashing Pumpkins, then of Zwan, has put his stamp on all of his recordings over the years — not only as lyricist, singer, musician, but also as producer. Here, Corgan releases the control board and turns the job over to the incredibly well-qualified Rick Rubin.
On Ogilala, streaming in the player to your left until its Oct. 13 release, Corgan and Rubin peel back the layers, predominantly letting spare instrumentation and melody lead the way. There are occassional swells of strings and other accompaniments (including a guest turn by fellow ex-Pumpkin James Iha). And on tracks like "Aeronaut" and "The Long Goodbye," fans of the Smashing Pumpkins' quieter side will find some common threads, though there is too much intimacy here for this to feel like a band effort.
“Having written the songs for voice and guitar, I put myself in Rick's hands to take the music wherever he'd like," Corgan said in a statement announcing the release of the album. "Normally I would have done more, and tinkered more on production, but rather Rick put the onus on me to deliver at a molecular level via live takes. The rest was simply a reaction.”
There are also some beautiful vocal moments. Corgan's voice, which so often shifts from siren-like (as in an ambulance) to siren-like (as in one who calls your ship to ruin), feels like it has received a re-tuning — emotionally varied, at times more weary, but also warmer. There are low tremolos and sustained highs. There is no lack of Corgan's familiar inner angst in his singing, there just seems to be a new delivery to it. Whether you've come at this as a fan of Billy, or a new listener discovering William, there's a lot to listen for in the sparse, elegant Ogilala.
Ogilala will be released on Oct. 13. Pre-order it here.