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…
Topics: 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