Ready for love on 'Embrace' / *** 1/2


June 19, 2005



"All things change," Chicago superstar Billy Corgan sings in the opening line from the song of the same name, which starts off his first solo album. A dozen tunes later, in the last line of "Strayz," he adds, "You know I'm true/ I wasn't born to follow." Whether you love or hate his new music, you have to admire the combination of those sentiments as he shows his commitment to following his own path.

Corgan could have continued making faux-Smashing Pumpkins sounds for the rest of what might have been a less glitzy but still very lucrative career. Instead, he has crafted his most distinctive and consistent music, picking up where "Adore" left off by pairing digital programming with wonderful washes of ethereal guitar a la the Cocteau Twins or My Bloody Valentine, and nicely framing melodies that remain anthemic and insanely infectious, despite his limited voice.

With lyrical heartfelt declarations such as, "You don't know what it's like to love somebody the way I love you" and "I'm ready, ready for love," "The Future Embrace" is partly a journal of heartbreak and partly an optimistic personals ad announcing that its creator is ready to move forward and commit. It's a far cry from the solipsistic angst of "Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage," and much more honest and far less ponderous that rants such as "Emptiness is loneliness, and loneliness is cleanliness/And cleanliness is godliness, and god is empty just like me."

Throughout the alternative era, Corgan hid behind irony and rage as easy tools to deflect sharing too much of himself, lest anyone unmercifully mock his genuine emotions. Now that he no longer cares if anyone's laughing at him, there's nothing left to sneer at, just an artist expressing what all of us feel, and doing it better than most.