Friday, February 11, 2011

Billy Corgan & His Pumpkins: A Brief Acknowledgement.

Midnight, and I've got one thing on my mind. Billy Corgan & The Smashing Pumpkins. Last artist standing from the 90's? Maybe not, as Alice in Chains are still making good music. However, I do believe he is one of the few. He is known for having a very distinctive vocal style, being one of a very "nasal" nature. When he sang, it would evoke each & every sort of emotion you could fathom. Lyrically, he has an indisputable and easily recognizable style, often making his own words and odd pairings to create quite an effective result.

"Candy cane walks
To build a bonfire,
To break my fall."

"You're an empty promise
You're an easy chair
You're the gods forces
Struck down somewhere

You're a secret noticed
You're a mystery sky
You're a wish floating
Up to the night"

His guitar work is very much underrated, and anyone who has looked into their catalogue even a bit can tell a part he wrote from a group of songs. A unique style, simplistic...yet also complex in certain ways. BC is known for over-dubbing his guitar parts and creating odd sounding guitar riffs & arrangements.

If you have never, ever listened to two albums called 'Siamese Dream' and 'Mellon Collie & the Infinite Sadness', then you may have some kind of void in your musical world that needs filling. You know those pop-rock and 'emo' bands of today? Well, a lot of them are known to have been inspired by The Pumpkins. My Chemical Romance cites them as their hugest influence. And although these bands formed of the ripples of their legacy are predominantly gnats on the web of music, they were inspired with very good reason.

They started in 1988 as, more or less, a grunge band with hints of psychadelia and a very strong influence derived from the alt rock band, 'The Cure.' Billy Corgan on lead guitar & vocals. D'arcy Wretzky on bass, James Iha on guitar. To round it out, an incredibly talented young jazz enthusiast by the name of Jimmy Chamberlin on the skins. Their debut record, 'Gish', was all of this & more. Just enough to crack the barrier, so to speak. That, combined with a contribution of the song "Drown" to the popular movie soundtrack, 'Singles', made enough of a miniscule ripple in the midst of Nirvana's 'Nevermind'  to earn them the chance to record a major label follow-up.

Come 1993. After tumultuous recording sessions, pressure, drugs and depression, 'Siamese Dream' emerged from the minds of Billy Corgan & his band mates. A highly influential & successful record, one cannot deny the sincerity of a song such as "Mayonaise", the desperation of the hit single, "Disarm", the fast-paced stomp of "Geek USA" or the obscurity of the eight minute & forty-three second jam, "Silverfuck". Even 90's enthusiasts who hate Corgan will have you know that this record is a must-have. It was during these sessions that Billy was labeled as a "control freak" and a "studio-tyrant", something he would have to live with right up till the present, and probably forever.

And now, we come to 1995, and 'Mellon Collie.' Considered by many to be this band's defining moment. A sprawling, 28-track record with intricate ballads, incinerating rockers, and obscurities within. The diversity in this opus is immense, yet it all flows quite well. Key tracks include 'Zero', 'X.Y.U.', 'Muzzle', ' Thru The Eyes Of Ruby', 'Bodies', 'Where Boys Fear To Tread', and of course the classic hit you may actually be aware of, 'Tonight, Tonight'. Truly an album to endure, and I will review it in full in due-time.

'Adore', a 1998 release, and 'Machina/the machines of god' (closing their career at the time in 2000) were some of the most flawless and honest records I've ever had the pleasure of listening to. Unfortunately, they went relatively unloved through harsh criticisms and poor record sales. Many consider them to be his artistic peak, as do I. He was scathed by such negative response, which would haunt him years later.

The Pumpkins were plagued by inside-problems, drugs and Corgan's personal turmoil. They broke up in December of 2000, and Corgan soon found refuge with Jimmy in a new musical endeavor called Zwan in 2001.

After releasing a studio album, as well as writing a multitude of live material & what can be assumed to be demoes, Zwan disbanded, never to be heard from again.

Billy then opted for a long-awaited solo release, and TheFutureEmbrace was recorded & released in 2005. While the era had some very memorable cuts, it was the beginning of a fall from grace with Billy.

That same year, he took out a full-page ad in the Chicago Tribune to announce his desire to reform The Smashing Pumpkins. Him & Jimmy returned with three new members to release a lackluster record entitled, 'Zeitgeist'. The fans retracted, his voice seemed different, the lyrics were way off. The songs' arrangements were just fine, but the production of them sacrificed the quality. That coupled with a lack of sincerity on the album caused a whiplash. They toured through fall/winter of 2008, ending with a 20th Anniversary Tour filled with bad auras and an angry man singing uninspired songs. It was a dark time for the band, and through it all, BC & JC seemed to at least be on a proper (and quite dark) musical track, showcasing new material such as "As Rome Burns", "Owata", "A Song For A Son", and an extended riff-fest take on Simon & Garfunkel's gem, "The Sounds Of Silence".
 Jimmy, heeding the advice of a "Shaman"......left the band. Billy revealed the desire to carry on with a 44-song concept album with the title, 'Teargarden by Kaleidyscope'. 44 songs, free, no strings attached. All released online through, and with limited quantity 4 song EP boxsets released for collectors.

Many ridicule Billy for carrying on without Jimmy, let alone James & D'arcy. After seeing how Jimmy left the band due to "spiritual advice", James toured with Hanson, and D'arcy is still struggling with her own issues, I have developed a sort of respect for this man. Certainly in the sense that no matter what, it is music he is after...and the satisfaction of recognition. No drugs, no bullshit. He may not be at the top of his game, but he has his determination. The man refuses to succumb to "dad rock" or being a fondly remembered "hits band". He constantly shits on his own material for the sake of moving forward, no matter how many get in his way and wave their fingers at him. Even as he approaches middle-age, he insists that he still has to "fake it for one more show." Good on him, at least.

Back to the new project. The songs on the first EP were faded, in a bad way. Save for the closing track. EP#2 saw better reception, and leads to where we are now. Billy is planning on releasing two more songs to conclude the 10-song part 1 portion of the record.

Since TheFuture Embrace was released, Billy has hit a rock in rock.The man definitely still has it in him, without a doubt. However, it seems that all the negatives that came with his critics/fans over the years have subdued the beast. He can still shred like no other on guitar, do not overlook that. It is more so his lyrics & vocals have had a quite stale quality since the reformation in 2007, and I truly believe it resides within a fear of reception. Vocally speaking, he has a very technically-flawed singing style. And though myself and millions of others clearly see his cries & shrieks as a gift from the musical world, many others did not. The man was ridiculed for it to a high degree. Beyond that, his later Pumpkins' releases were defecated upon because they weren't..."hip", for lack of better word. Thank you, Britney Britney & NSYNC for that.

Traumatized by rejection, it would seem he is playing it a bit too safe these days. Teargarden by Kaleidyscope, thus far, is interesting. I truly enjoy 3 of the songs, and get a little bit out of the rest (save for one complete dud). Two great songs so far:

Mike Byrne (current drummer), Nicole Fiorentino (current bassist), and Jeff Schroeder (current guitarist) all seem to have given him a new-found spark in his eyes. He has let them in the studio, and already they have come up with something as mouth-watering as this little number together (which easily casts a shadow upon the recent SP material):

With a full-band once again in the studio, perhaps his "tyranny" is over, and he can find the peace of mind to find himself once more. Over & out, and I sincerely felt my first official post should be quite long. Have a good weekend!


This is a place where I post all of my various ramblings about the musical world. More or less, to keep my friends & family sane and to give insight & guidance to all music freaks with a passion as frightening as mine. Album reviews, artist news & insights, and my own conflicting opinions. Click the link at the bottom of the page to become a follower of the Musical/\Revertion.