|Artist||The Smashing Pumpkins|
|Album||ATUM: A Rock Opera In Three Acts|
|Year of release||2022/2023|
The album that’s presented by Billy Corgan himself as the sequel to Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness and Machina / The Machines Of God. That sounds promising. Both those albums are rich, varied albums, I still listen to a lot. Let’s dive into ATUM: A Rock Opera In Three Acts.
As the album’s subtitle explains, ATUM: A Rock Opera In Three Acts is a rock opera in 3 parts, containing no less than 33 songs. Supposedly, the story is about a character named Shiny (melting together the characters Zero and Glass) who’s banished into space. Pretentious? Hell yes. But does that also mean the rock opera is doomed? No, certainly not.
ATUM: A Rock Opera In Three Acts is the twelfth album by The Smashing Pumpkins and consists of three collections of 11 songs each. ATUM: Act One was released on November 15, 2022, ATUM: Act Two followed on January 31, 2023, and ATUM: Act Three was released on May 5, 2023. On that day the rock opera was made available in its entirety on several streaming services and was released in physical formats (vinyl and cd) for the first time.
Via their own website the band offered a limited release (ATUM Box Set-1st Edition Black Vinyl) of 1,333 numbered copies to their fans, a release accompanied by 10 more songs which “will not be available for streaming until at least winter of 2023”. This box set was to be shipped starting April 23, 2023. The 10 extra songs were meant for a planned album called Zodion At Crystal Hall.
In October 2020 Billy Corgan announced he was working on a concept album that was to be a sequel to Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness and Machina / The Machines Of God. During the COVID-19 pandemic Corgan had enough time on his hands to develop his ideas and record them. The first release of the album was the single Beguiled, which was released a day after the official announcement of the rock opera on September 19, 2022.
Even though the rock opera is presented as one album, the Acts vary rather much. Where Act One is more like the previous album Cyr, Act Two is more heavy in general, giving more room to the guitar. Act Three has the most ‘typical’ rock opera sound, containing more cinematic songs, apparently designed to portray a space feel.
For those who would like a comparison to other (previous) albums: Act One is like Cyr, Act Two is the one that resembles Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness the most and Act Three has a kind of Adore feel. That’s not to say that every Act contains an extremely varied palette, where genres effortlessly blend together. In a September 2022 interview with Kerrang! Corgan said: “It goes in a million different directions… It doesn’t feel like there’s too much of any one thing”.
But, the main question remains whether or not ATUM: A Rock Opera In Three Acts can measure up to Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness and Machina / The Machines Of God? In short: no. But, how realistic is it really to expect such a thing? Not at all, in my opinion. So, should you hope for a classic The Smashing Pumpkins album, move on. For everyone else: ATUM: A Rock Opera In Three Acts is a rich (and long!) album, that really needs to be listened to more times than one. As is the case with many rock operas, this album also contains songs that are primarily there to serve the narrative as opposed to providing musical class (hello Tommy’s Holiday Camp off of The Who’s classic Tommy!).
With that in mind, Billy Corgan has once again shown he can be ambitious, going overboard at times, but is ultimately still capable of creating an exciting musical journey, that reveals itself more with every listen. Personal tip: don’t start with ATUM: Act One.
All songs written by Billy Corgan.
ATUM: Act One
- The Butterfly Suite
- The Good In Goodbye
- With Ado I Do
- Steps In Time
- Where Rain Must Fall
- Beyond The Vale
- The Gold Mask
ATUM: Act Two
- Night Waves
- Space Age
- Every Morning
- To The Grays
- The Culling
ATUM: Act Three
- That Which Animates The Spirit
- The Canary Trainer
- In Lieu Of Failure
- Of Wings
Zodion at Crystal Hall
For now, these songs are exclusively available on the, as of yet sold-out, ATUM Box Set-1st Edition Black Vinyl release.
The Smashing Pumpkins:
- William Patrick Corgan – vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards
- Jimmy Chamberlin – drums
- James Iha – guitar
- Jeff Schroeder – guitar, keyboards
With help from:
- Katie Cole, Sierra Swan, Linda Strawberry – background vocals
- Kimberly Fleming, April Becker, Denonne Fowlkes, Jovan Bender, Kimberly Nicole Mont, Wilmer Terrell Hunt – choir
- David Davidson, David Angell, Alicia Enstrom – violin
- Kristin Wilkinson, Monisa Angell – viola
- Andrew Dunn, Austin Hoke – cello
- Craig Nelson – string bass
- Erik Gratton – flutes
- Somerlie Depasquale – oboe, English horn
- Emily Bowland – clarinet
- Jennifer Kummer – French horn
- Steve Patrick – trumpet, flugelhorn
- Rachel Miller – harp
- Tim Lauer – piano, celeste, harpsicord, percussion
What’s your take on ATUM: A Rock Opera In Three Acts? Let me know!
The A Pop Life playlist on Spotify has been updated.
The Smashing Pumpkins 2023 image: consequence.net
The Smashing Pumpkins – ATUM image: stereogum.com
The Smashing Pumpkins – Beguiled (video) image: rock95.com
The Smashing Pumpkins – ATUM – Acts One, Two & Three image: reddit.com
The Smashing Pumpkins – ATUM – Gatefold image: smashingpumpkins.com