Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Not so Smashing Pumpkins

The Smashing Pumpkins have released the second song, 'Widow Wake My Mind', from the 44 track album Teargarden By Kaleidyscope. News of a new Pumpkins release is fast becoming more nerve-wracking than playing Russian roulette in the middle of a particularly bad acid trip.

Anyone with any interest in the band will be well aware of the massive limitations of Zeitgeist, and the first release from Teargarden... 'Song For A Sun' is absolutely diabolical, something akin to Phil Collins attempting to rip off Led Zeppelin. So what of the new song? Well, the good news is its not terrible, but on the other hand, the best thing you could say for it is that sounds like a very mediocre B-side from the Gish era. ‘Widow Wake My Mind’ is faintly psychedelic, with a decent approximation of the SP knack for a triumphant solo. The piano break in the bridge and lyric about “crawling into my heart” are a bit cringe-worthy, and the track is undeniably lightweight, but overall it’s not bad- and almost certainly better than anything from Zeitgeist.

Musicians like Billy Corgan inspire a particular kind of hero-worship among their fan base, the longer the career; the more this effect is amplified. When a band has such an excellent catalogue of albums stretching over the length of time the Pumpkins do, the albums become more than great pieces of art, they become soundtracks to the fans formative years. They become a trusted friend- always on hand to celebrate the highs and sympathise with the lows. So when the inevitable decline happens, to the long-time fan it feels like more than a band releasing a bad record; it feels like a slap in the face to the band’s legacy, to the fan’s very memories. No-one expects artists to go on making wonderful music forever, but when things do start to go downhill, the clamour for them to bow out gracefully becomes intense.

The plan for Teargarden By Kaleidyscope is to release every one of the 44 songs online for free as it is written, with a physcial boxset to buy when all the tracks have been released, so its seems obvious that Billy Corgan is not willing to fade into the night anytime soon. And, being honest, we shouldn’t really expect him to, its entirely unfair to want someone to just stop make making music because it doesn’t live up to an existing fanbase’s expectations, but the frustration at one member (Corgan) putting out shonky material under the Pumpkins banner with none of the other original members involved is much easier to sympathise with. Having used Zwan and his own name to release music in the past (both of which were considerably better than the current Pumpkins material) why has he now decided that he can justify being the sole proprietor of the Pumpkins legacy?

Sadly, this kind of ego-driven behaviour rarely works out well in a musical sense. There are countless examples of the singer of a much-loved band going on to make highly dubious musical decisions without the input of any of the band’s original members; Axl Rose’s Chinese Democracy debacle being one recent instance that springs painfully to mind. The Smashing Pumpkins haven’t yet plumbed those depths, and despite myself I can’t help but like ‘Widow Wake My Mind’ a little bit. With 42 songs from Teargarden By Kaleidyscope still to go, it may even turn out to be an excellent album, stranger things have happened. The part of me that treasures Gish, Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie & The Infinite Sadness however, fears that the best days of Billy Corgan, and The Smashing Pumpkins, are long gone.


  1. In a way, it's when the artist is on the decline that we really get to see their more honest work, considering the boy's back catalogue what chance does he have to ascend to the former glories? Think he was spouting off about a year ago about needing to write "another 1979" - why? Perhaps this is why Jimmy Chamberlin departed and gave billy a long needed kick in the balls to stop chasing the cash, because there isn't any! (someone tell this to courtney though).

    Maybe his best days have long gone but you're right in that there's always a spark of excitement in a new "pumpkins" release, just to see what the mad baldie's up to now :D

  2. I'm in agreement with the a lot of what is stated above. The music is, well, pretty bad, but he's a personality, and you will always be listening out for his work no matter how bad it gets, because once upon a time he was turning out some pretty special music.