I'm in Oceania for the fourth time now and here's my trip log:
Quasar, the labyrinth of a 5 minutes long intro (!) sets the sails for this journey: warm, psychedelic, yet rocking. OK, the lyrics are a bit too cheesy but why should we care?
Hell yeah, even the first minute has more SP in it than Mary Star+The Future Embrace+Zeitgeist together.
Panopticon seems like the second half to track #1 (or maybe the first "real" song after the "intro") and has everything a SP song is supposed to have:
Lyrics of happy sadness, a strong melody on the verse and the chorus, the "big muff overload guitars" and something that makes it feel dizzy and rocking at the same time. This is so cool!
As the other master of "avoiding to be cheesy by getting as close to it as possible" (besides Steven Wilson), Billy, throws in The Celestials as the third track and if thought you already heard it all and that this was just a lurk warm synth-pomp reprise of ballads like Disarm, the driven guitars from the second chorus on will blow this doubts into space far beyond our quasar. Another winner, definite SP but unlike anything before. If there was a single, I bet it was.
The Violet Rays are definitely coming from the most hooky synth-line since the mid-80s which is the heart of this masterpiece.
Everything else recalls grand MACHINA-era goth rock songs like I Of The Mourning or Speed Kills without copying them at all.
The lyrics are there and so is one of the best choruses Billy has written since Adore's Dusty&Pistol Pete.
100% of the SP atmosphere I was missing since 2000 is back!
This song will squeeze everything out of the old-school gothness-SP fan's soul.
It's a miracle and this song alone was worth purchasing the album twice (on vinyl and CD).
I haven't heard any live incarnation of My Love Is Winter, so I can't compare it at all.
The thing for me is that this song was unfortunately set after Violet Rays which feels superior for me.
Standing alone, My Love Is Winter enfolds its true potential which is nothing but another mid-tempo hit on par with legendary Stand Inside Your Love.
I love how the minor chord in the chorus finally turns into a major chord in the last one.
Another good song, shoe gazing at it's finest.
One Diamond, One Heart surely was a shock to all hard rock SP fans for it sounds like being completely recorded on synths only.
I'm fine with synth music and I always will.
This another candidate for the fine line between cheese and genius and again Billy proofs the doubters wrong:
There is some weird 80s-quality to it and I can't help but feel like this is the best Power, Corruption & Lies-era New Order song they never wrote.
And more so, a synth track at this point feels refreshing enough.
Once again we are entering the olymp of Billy's best songs he ever wrote with Pinwheels.
There's so much to it that I can hardly put everything in this short review but I try to capture the most important things:
I fucking love the idea of a 2-minutes long intro which perfectly raises the excitement of the listener until it hits us right:
After the ocean of synths and fuzz-guitars just Billy and his acoustic.
A melody, pure like no other ever before hits our ears and then the band sets in and I'm away.
Nicole's superb singing, the galore of beautiful melodies, the gospel feeling and in the middle of it all Billy with love-lyrics that feel nothing but true - after all these years.
On my first listen this was the song that made me cry for a few moments...if Violet Rays was 100% SP this is 120% and it even over shades some original SP efforts for me (I never thought I would ever write that).
But I should still hold my horses because Pinwheels is followed by a track that is equally great in a different way.
As almost every of Billy's long tracks, Oceania has two main sections, an out-of this-world-bridge (here: the acoustic part) and a bunch of creative ideas and guitar sounds we never ever heard before.
The first section builds and collapses all the time, shifting and moving from here to there and back. But it still manages to build up a dark atmosphere and the feeling of something epic.
Out of nowhere, there suddenly is the acoustic section; almost like a middle-finger to all those who feel to well in their old-fashioned prog-rock structures, rather expecting some heavy riffing instead.
And then the biggest bad ass drums ever mixed (I wonder how many tracks Mike did) fade in and blow the dust out of my speakers and my brain too.
This second half feels like tripping on a dark ocean towards the dawn with heavy drums kicking you forward and kickin' and kickin' and kickin'...
And suddenly all fades and the best nightmare I ever had is gone. I want back into it!
Pale Horse makes the third 1A-SP song in a row.
If I wouldn't know better (and if it wasn't for Nicole's voice), I'd bet this was left-off Adore or MCIS for some reason.
The "Pale Horse theme" is one of the most addicting things I have ever heard, the lyrics are full of wise innuendos towards Billy's mother, insanity and death.
The "Thora Zine, Thora Zine, Thora Zine...." moments will be burnt into your souls until you pass.
It's one of those "I'm finally freed by dying-themed songs" like With Every Light.
Soothing, moving and meaningfully thought-provoking the pale horse rides on.
Again one of the best songs Billy ever did.
It's weird but refreshing to place The Chimera here.
It just sounds like visiting the old optimistic SP-sound by quoting Rocket, Frail & Bedazzled and Muzzle all at once.
Throw in some ZWAN production and there you go with maybe the album's happiest and maybe most rocking (in an old-school way) song.
There's nothing wrong with The Chimera other than following three of the best songs ever written, that's what makes it feel pale which it clearly is not.
The perfect song to start your solstice fire party.
On my first listen I turned down Glissandra but it grew on me.
The strange main riff sounds like coming from an early Sonic Youth record and is hooky enough to stay with you long after the album is over.
Glissandra's rest is not as dramatic as most of Oceania but it has a very nice, psychedelic rock flow going that keeps us interested even though it clearly is over shaded a bit.
Well...Inkless...to keep it short, I haven't managed to get into this song yet.
If you thought about Glissandra being the maybe-candidate for a b-side, Inkless definitely is (at least at this listening state I am at the moment).
Compared to all the other tunes before, it falls rather flat and doesn't live up to the insanely high quality of them.
It's OK in the flow...and I think there is a chance that it might grow on me.
I wonder if Billy's voice was intended to sound that whiny as it does in Wildflower.
Other than that, the structure of the song is a brilliant and lurking one.
While you're still wondering about the voice (which only seems to be there to confuse you), the subtle synth and guitar construction crawls under your skin and sinks its teeth in deep until everything climaxes in a noisy psychedelic solo and fades out.
I haven't paid too much attention to this one on my first few listens but on a subliminal level (pretty much like Strayz) this is one of the most intelligent things ever by Billy and deserves more attention and a deeper analysis.
To keep the summary as short as possible; Oceania delivers!
It has everything a SP fan could ever hope for. Even after a grumpy old man like me has given up on SP and a full member change, SP are back on the track with Billy's best effort since the MACHINA cyclus.
I still need more time and the test of it to figure out it's ranking in my SP albums list but it surely surpasses SD as an album and of course Zeit....erm, I'm sorry, can't remember what they tried to do once before in 2007.
Minor complaints are maybe still Billy's new voice which has some odd and lazy moments, the lyrics don't always live up to the thoughtful ones Billy once wrote when he still hated himself and the world and maybe there are some sections where is happening a bit too much at once.
But apart from that it is great, really great.
To quote mighty Dolan:
Everything went better than expected:
It sounds more like a band album than every other SP release (except MCIS and Pisces), the members contributed and even shaped (!) much more than I ever thought, Mike does a much better job than I thought and the song writing - finally - is as emotive, heart-felt and meaningful as it gets when you have to fill these über-sized shoes of no one else but the one and only mighty SP.
After 12 years of yearning, complaining, bitching, hating and word-fucking I have to say one thing from the bottom of my heart:
WELCOME BACK SP!
...I needed you...sigh...