The entire record was presumably intent on capturing life’s innocent years, finger-painting and running through meadows. Fair enough. Too bad it’s got nothing more profound to say than, “When’s playtime?”

Turns out former Smashing Pumpkins bassist James Iha, all hushed and scowling, gained a lot of muso friends. Not hometown stars. Headline-sized names. Names worthy of dropping: Television’s Tom Verlaine, Karen O, and Sara Quin, one half of Tegan & Sara. They’re all on Iha’s valentine to dream-pop and stargazing alt rock, Look To The Sky. Listening to the record, James is calling in some favours. Big damn favours.

You rush in with stars in your hair / Cast your spell and float through the air,” Iha warily sings on plinky-plonky acoustic opener ‘Make Believe’.First mistake? Not even close. Lyrically, Iha plucks the first rhyme entering his head and commits it to tape. Beat-shuffled ‘Till Next Tuesday’is littered with criminal sentences. He cheerily saunters along with childish glee, actually singing “Wake me up next Tuesday / Don’t wake me up till it’s news day!” No, seriously, he actually sings that. So at pains to divorce himself from a chequered Smashing Pumpkins past, he’s thrown subtlety, depth and substance out his Brooklyn cottage window. What the hell happened, James?

Verlaine’s licks are lost underneath stomping bass and fist-bashes of piano on ‘Appetite’,summed up with“A bitter cup / Fill it up”. Strings breeze in a languidly strummed ‘Dream Tonight’,giving pause to wonder – ‘Is this the Smashing Pumpkins guy? Really?’All might’ve been forgiven if his music roared with thunder and passion.

1.5/5 stars

BY TOM VALCANIS

Look To The Sky is out now throughStop Start/Inertia.

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