Love letters from a Pumpkin

James Iha - Let It Come Down
(Virgin Records)
2 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)

Story by Tony Bonyata

James Iha is renown for his sonic landscapes and electronic blasts that he creates on guitar for Chicago's own Smashing Pumpkins. But now it seems that on his first solo effort, Let It Come Down, he is content to sound more like the seventies soft-rock band Bread than the hard-hitting Pumpkins.
"The Pumpkins tour a lot and when we're not on the road we're in the studio," admits Iha. "I play electric, saturated, distorted guitar every night. When I go back to the hotel or home on a break, I don't want to play through a Marshall stack. I'm sure a lot of these songs are reactions to that sound."
Instead of recreating the heavy rock produced by his full time band, Iha focuses on a more intimate, laid back acoustic sound. With honest, from-the-heart (but ultimately forgettable) melodies, delicate song structures and fragile, yet earnest, vocal deliveries Iha manages to break free from the expected and produce an album that is catchy and cute at times, yet sappy and teddy-bearish at others.
If this album sounds strangely familiar it's probably not because you've heard anything like it on today's rock radio. As Veruca Salt's Nina Gordon explained to Iha after listening to the album in the studio, "I don't want you to take this the wrong way, but this sounds like a record my parents listened to."
Songs such as the bouncy "Jealousy" and "Beauty", which features Veruca Salt's Gordon on harmonies, as well as the solemn "See The Sun" and the bittersweet "Winter" are stand out numbers. But be prepared to tie a string around your finger if you want to remember a good portion of the rest of the album.
Iha's sincere voice praises love in a simple way, but his strongest voice is still his true guitar wizardry that makes the Smashing Pumpkins one of the most magical bands of the last decade.
And if releasing an album full of simple love songs keeps him happily waving his magic wand with the Pumpkins, than I'll be the first in line to buy his next batch of musical love letters.

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