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Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness...

I apologize, (because at least 99% of you will have absolutely no interest in this whatsoever) but this post is about the Smashing Pumpkins.


If there are two passions I can legitimately say I’ve had the entirety of my life, they would be sports and music. I’ve been fortunate to have parents that in one way or another have fostered both of these avenues of interest since my inception, and have helped give me at least a modicum of knowledge and good taste. Thanks.

As someone who has played music for over half my life, and been heavily impacted by it since I can remember, Sunday night might have been an ending of sorts.

Just before the Super Bowl kick-off, NBC aired a Hyundai commercial for their Genesis model. It featured a brand new song by the aforementioned Smashing Pumpkins- written specifically for the spot.

The food’s been cooked, the game’s about to start, the high priced ads are flowing and I’m watching my proverbial last straw.

Since I first heard Siamese Dream, the Smashing Pumpkins have been my favorite band. I was eleven when this happened. This band and their music, seriously, changed my life more than once. Nirvana might have put the guitar in my hands, but the Pumpkins showed me what you could you could really do with it once it was there. Learning those songs got me “good enough” to warrant the investment in a new, nicer set of instruments from the “folks.”

I went backwards and discovered Gish and was sucked in further. Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness came out when I was in middle school and literally blew my mind away. With that record, I had (and have) a template that I will probably continue to in some way rip off for the rest of my life. The Beatles, The Stones, Zeppelin, whatever. This was “my” band, and somehow they managed to become the biggest band in the world, despite the loss of Jimmy due to some “heroin issues.” (and I promise that I’m not trying to make light of “heroin issues”)

Adore came out, post Jimmy Chamberlin, and completely changed what a Pumpkin’s record sounded like. I will, to this day, contend that it is one of the most underrated records of the 90′s. It wasn’t what people expected, but it continued to point to the band doing whatever the band wanted to do, regardless of what was expected by the label or the fans. And with a high quality “product” to boot.

Chamberlin rejoined the fold for what seemed to be the last studio record for the band, Machina: The Machines of God. It wasn’t very good, at least compared to what had come before it, but they were still doing what they wanted to do. They announced their imminent break-up, released Machina II: The Friends and Enemies of Modern Music for free online (which is very good, and can still be found for free here [I recommend you download the double LP, if you feel so inclined]), and played two last shows in Chicago. I was a freshman in college (making $7.00 an hour), paid more money than I had any business to and took a drive up to Chicago to say goodbye.

Then a lot of years passed.

Corgan and Chamberlin had rejoined forces in “indie supergroup” Zwan, who made a good album of their, own: Mary Star of the Sea. It didn’t take long for that to fall apart, though, and Corgan and Chamberlin made solo records in the subsequent year. As secret plans to re-form the Pumpkins were in place, Corgan gave interviews that shed original Pumpkins members D’arcy Wretzky and James Iha in a less than favorable light. Any notions of reuniting the original band were destroyed (assuming there was any chance for them to get back together in the first place).

So in that light, the Pumpkins got back together, with three new members. I drove to Asheville, North Carolina to see them play one of their first shows back in the states (their first reunited shows were in Europe). Good show, but a few things were a little bit amiss. They “threw a couple of bones” to the oldtimers like me (non-singles from the first four albums), but a whole lot of the show comprised of token singles (which they’ve bitched about playing- for good reason), fifteen minute versions of bad Machina I songs (that they should have forgotten about) and songs from their soon to be released album (Zeitgeist).

Then, Zeitgeist was released. It wasn’t just released, though. It was released in a bunch of ways. Different covers. Different tracklistings. Specific versions available at specific conglomerate retailers. Believe it or not,though, none of these versions made Zeitgeist a good record. At all. Alternative f@cking revolution, right?

(By the way, “alternative music” was perhaps the dumbest and most inaccurate label for a genre ever. It’s been replaced, though, with “indie rock” which is every bit as dumb and inaccurate a label as alternative was- and is typically a whole lot more annoying aesthetically.)

Either way, I still wasn’t completely ready to give up on the Pumpkins yet.

Now I am.

Super Bowl Sunday is about a lot of things. One of those things shouldn’t ever be your biggest influence completely making you lose every remaining shred of respect you had for them. Again, this band changed my life. Now they (Billy Corgan) seem to be content to write songs specifically for product placement (Guitar Hero, Hyundai), and even try to get their fans excited about that. Songs that, for that matter, also happen to suck. Now I’m pissed off because this song/commercial managed to piss me off before the Steelers even won the game.

(I know that the one thing missing from Siamese Dream was your inability to personally edit any of the songs to a Hyundai commercial, so here you go)

Maybe it’s all for the best, though.

The last couple years of listening to Pumpkin’s music has kind of been like hanging out with your best friend from 8th grade who just moved back to town. There’s certainly a bit of comforting familiarity, but neither one of us is 13 anymore. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to see you buddy, but from my personal perspective (and granted I’m not a doctor) it kind of looks like the meth might have won the battle. Or at least is starting to.

I guess what I’m trying to say, old friends, is thank you. You really helped out a lot in a number of ways. I’ll forever be in debt for the experiences and lessons in shredding that you provided.

It’s just that I have to get off of the bus now before the inevitable Hardee’s commercial comes up. (See, I’ve got this deal with myself that I’ll never bludgeon my own face with a baseball bat.)

So, there you go. I hope things get back on track for you guys. I just can’t stomach watching it anymore.

Maybe, though, I could stomach that new “Thick Burger” you’re bound to hawk soon. Sounds pretty good…

Dick's Sporting Goods presents "Hell Week":

Tags: Adore Billy Corgan D'arcy Wretzcy Guitar Hero Hardees Hyundai Genesis James Iha Jimmy Chamberlin Led Zeppelin Machina II: The Friends And Enemies Of Modern Music Machina: The Machines Of God Mary Star Of The Sea Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness NBC Nirvana Pittsburgh Steelers Siamese Dream Smashing Pumpkins Super Bowl The Beatles The Rolling Stones Thick Burger Zeitgeist Zwan

  • rawkinrich


    I’m just read your article and being a huge Pumpkins fan (huge enough to have a tattoo) I have to agree with what you’ve said. I became a fan in 1996 and managed to see them in 2000 in Manchester and I have to say they blew me away, was the best night of my life.

    I didn’t have a bad word to say about them, even though Adore got slated, I think it’s a great piece of work and as you’ve said, they did what they wanted to do.

    However, as the rumours appeared about the reunion Billy started taking about James and Darcy. He really should have kept it all to himself. It’s the past; it surely wasn’t fair for this to brought up, five years after to Pumpkins were put to rest? I did feel obscured about the Smashing Pumpkins ‘reunion’. I knew Smashing Pumpkins as Billy, James, Darcy and Jimmy. Even though Matt and Mellissa came in at some point, it was still Smashing Pumpkins.

    I saw the DVD they’ve released and even though we all knew Billy was the main influence on Smashing Pumpkins – he was the complete focus. He is everything. And he basically dumped on James.

    Back in the day there were there were 4 people that sat in the studio. There were 4 people that created the music. There were 4 people on stage (and for long periods of time!). But now I see Smashing Pumpkins in a different light.

    I hope you follow me as now I’m rambling :) I saw them 3 times since the start of ‘SP2′, at Leeds Festival 2007, Nottingham and Manchester 2008. The Nottingham show was a disgrace, not many people there, flat audience and the Pumpkins did not want to be there. They could have tried to get involved with the audience but they couldn’t be bothered. They left without a word.

    So I have to say I’ve lost a whole lot of interest and respect. I’m a little lost with it all. I will always look out to see what they are doing, but they seem (as you said about the Hyundai ad) to be doing a lot of commercial stuff. Good luck to them.

    I feel better for releasing all that :)


  • ridgeto

    If you feel the song “sucks,” that’s one thing, but the music industry has changed, and bands must find new ways to reach audiences. Commercials, video games, Wal-mart… everything is game right now.  Would you say Yo-Yo Ma sucks now because he did a Hyundai commercial?  I urge you to listen to the EP American Gothic, and the single GLOW, and now FOL agaim (which they’re giving away for free, by the way).  Really some of the best Pumpkins music ever.

  • gnbishop

    good god, what has this blog turned into? we can’t get anyone to comment (“fat albert painsworth” and “weston” excluded) on this damn thing for weeks, and then kellen writes about some silly little high school band and people come out of the woodwork for it. come on folks. i mean, a band like the silver jews (nashville’s very own) break up, playing their last show in a fuggin’ cave, 300 ft. below the ground, and it goes mostly unnoticed.

    meanwhile, kellen is waxing poetic on this guy. he may possibly be the craziest looking person i have ever seen. he’s wearing a dress. i mean, we’re talking about maybe the single most unathletic man in the history of the world, who claims to like sports so that people don’t beat him up. big cubs fan eh’ billy?

    and i’ll even give you siamese and parts of pisces (and yes, you can have mellon collie too), but really, let’s let it go after that. it’s like me still buying dave matthews band records. sure i liked them when i was 13, but i’ve grown up since then. my taste has matured. now it’s all about some john mayer. he’s like the white, upper-middle class jimi hendrix. and that makes me feel much safer when i listen to it. it’s like he’s talking to me in “you’re body is a wonderland”!

    sorry, i got off (track) a little bit there. my point to all of this friends, is that much like our country right now, things are changing very rapidly in the world. that means it’s probably time to grow up a little bit. let’s put down the water pipes, funyuns and the “twin peaks” tapes and pick up some adult music fellas. whadaya say? i mean, you can’t watch wwe raw in your parents’ basement forever. i hear that new morrissey album is good, and since he’s an egomaniacal blowhard as well (not to mention totally gay), it won’t be that much of a stretch. chuch!

    also, you are a hyundai owner, are you not, kellen? boooya!hahahahaha…

  • weston

    Ok guys, what the hell is this!! I understand good music and bad music but this is a damn football sight, nothing less or more! Start a web page for everyone to bitch and moan about the state of music and how bad it has become because this is not the place! Sorry im still mad that the Titans didnt go to the super bowl because they could have beat both of those teams asses! Ok now i feel better, sorry guys go listen to your sad music and talk about how it makes you feel.

  • Adam

    Great post, K.

    Gish, Siamese Dream, …Infinite Sadness…I even liked Adore!

    That’s a trip down memory lane. Zach and I were huge Pearl Jam fans (still are), but I listened to a lot of Corgan and Co. as well. The difference is PJ is still making good music. We basically have lost everyone from that era except PJ. I stopped listening to the Pumpkins when the Machina era hit.

    And easy on knocking Zepplin. Those dudes can still kick any band’s ass, and last year they proved it live — with Bonham’s son on drums :)


  • elishabc

    Fact: Every band breaks up or gets terrible.
    Just becuase Billy Corgan won’t let go doesn’t mean that you can’t. 
    MIA is already married and 9 months pregnant. You don’t see a MIA mask by my bed. I gave up on that dream and I’m not trying to get the next best thing.
    Let sleeping dogs lay and start talking about some eff-ing football!

  • Pepe Pepito

    I say good riddance.  If you’re done with the Pumpkins, good for you.  I’m not.  I think Zeitgeist was definitely their weakest album but the latest releases have shown promise.  The track for the Hyundai ad rocked.  I think better stuff is coming.  About selling out?  F@#& that!  Billy has sold out eons ago.  Didn’t you know?

  • Wallace

    Mellon collie & very infinite sadness has everything to do with the Titans this year.

    I mean, gish – how the hell are you the best team in football and lose the first round of the playoffs? How about a BIG game plan Fisher!

    Don’t get me wrong, I adore the Tennessee Titans, but after such a let down this year it feels like it was just one big (terrible) siamese pipe dream.