A simpler title might have been “The Child, The Fool, The Skeptic and The Mystic.”
But it is the first four-song EP of a foretold 11-EP set, with a total of 44 songs being released free, one at a time.
And after all, we’re talking about Billy Corgan, who is not known for doing things the easy way.
So maybe it’s not so surprising that the title of the Smashing Pumpkins’ new EP is “Teargarden By Kaleidyscope Vol. 1/’Songs For A Sailor.’ “
As Pumpkins founding frontman Corgan explains in a press release, “ ‘Teargarden’ is based on the fool’s journey as signified in the progress of the tarot. The intention is to approach the work by breaking down the journey of life into four phases as made by different characters in major arcana cards: the Child, the Fool, the Skeptic and the Mystic.”
More unexpected than the record’s title, perhaps, is the sheer noncomplexity with which it’s being distributed.
If you want it, here’s how you get it: Go to the band’s website (www.smashingpumpkins.com), click on a song, click “download.”
That’s it. The Smashing Pumpkins pulled a Radiohead.
In Corgan’s words, “There will be no strings attached. Free will mean free, which means you won’t have to sign up for anything, give an e-mail address or jump through a hoop. You will be able to go and take the song or songs as you wish, as many times as you wish.”
For fans who want the physicality of owning the record – the artwork, the highest possible audio quality – there will be highly limited-edition pressings for sale.
Already the album is getting the critical praise to back up its collectibility. Rolling Stone magazine called the six-minute EP opener, “A Song for a Son,” a great mini-epic.
The song starts sparse, with Corgan’s unaffected vocals over soothing piano joined by an acoustic guitar hook. It builds with layerings of synthesizers before exploding into abrasive electric guitar grafts, which eventually bleed into a harpsichord solo.
It’s a fitting introduction, as the four songs, when listened to as a unit, contain the elemental wholeness of classic Smashing Pumpkins.
“Teargarden” is dense, delicate, cinematic and whimsical psychedelic dream-pop, shoegazy arena rock, laced with cathartic lyrics sung over ambitious arrangements. As Corgan puts it, this is the Smashing Pumpkins you grew up with.
The current lineup consists of Corgan with guitarist Jeff Schroeder, drummer Mike Byrne and new bassist Nicole Fiorentino.
While the EP was born only weeks ago, the songs have come into existence, from oldest to youngest, over the course of the year, first surfacing individually across multiple online platforms.
“A Song for a Son” debuted in December on AOL Music’s Spinner.com. Next came “Widow Wake My Mind” in January on MySpace.com, followed a few months later by “A Stitch In Time” on SoundCloud.com.
Completing the EP, “Astral Planes” came out via independent Amoeba Records’ website before being made available on smashingpumpkins.com in April.
The fifth song in the series, “Freak,” appeared on the band’s website in July.
Releasing the songs individually, then packaging them in 22-minute blasts, takes advantage of the iTunes ease of pushing singles. But it also turns the concept on its head, pulling the focus back on a body of work as opposed to a sequence of songs.
But Corgan and Co. turn even that notion inside out, dressing 11 EPs as a 44-song concept record.
In the case of Smashing Pumpkins, for the foreseeable future, EP is short for “Epic Promise.”