Corgan’s bandmates contribute by keeping up, not by reining him in 10:23 pm // Tuesday, June 26, 2012Posted by jjb in analysis, band, criticism, mellon collie, oceania, thefutureembrace.
A metaphor often used to illustrate Corgan’s supposed position has been that of a horse beneath a rider, and (as predicted) that metaphor has been trotted out in reviews of the Pumpkins’ new album Oceania. Spin Magazine’s Rob Harvilla used it today:
And so when it’s time for the nine-minute, multi-suite title track that gets way out of hand, these young bucks at the very least keep up, rein Corgan in, keep him honest.
Yes, it can plausibly be argued that Corgan’s music has been better when other hands are very involved; if you don’t love his solo record TheFutureEmbrace but hold dear the Pumpkins canon, that’s a ready conclusion to reach. But this is probably the case because Corgan is, or at least feels, freer to explore and go crazy when he’s in a band setting: His bandmates improve the music not by burying him in noes but by, to borrow Harvilla’s other phrase there, keeping up—not in the saddle but alongside Corgan, enabling him to divide labor and achieve wilder visions. What, after all, are the attributes we ascribe to the band’s reputed best work? Harvilla lists a few himself:
Prime Smashing Pumpkins reveled in the alleged worst aspects of the ’70s (the excess, the prog, the squeedly-deedly-doo guitar solos) and has nonetheless aged splendidly: Siamese Dream is a shitload less dated than, say, Ten; and Mellon Collie, for all its blatant absurdity, is an astoundingly deep, committed, multifaceted, entrancing clusterfuck that is way closer to being the best record of the grunge era than any of us should be comfortable with.
The next time someone says that TheFutureEmbrace reveled in excess will be the first; as was fairly apparent, Corgan imposed some tight constraints upon its recording, such as a limitation to only one guitar track per song. That record aside, the other major output from Corgan’s interstitial solo period was…a batch of exclusively acoustic music. And we are supposed to believe that James Iha, D’Arcy Wretzky, and Jimmy Chamberlin’s contributions to Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness and Siamese Dream are best characterized in terms of placed restraints? When Corgan talks about Butch Vig’s influence on Gish, he doesn’t speak of boundaries—he says that Vig was the only one who could stay up with him, while everyone else had gone home.
Harvilla is smart, and his review of Oceania is mostly on point. But it does suffer, pardon that expression, from
pomposity a lack of self-awareness. Harvilla goes on for 1,200 words, the writing is showy as a public fuck…and it’s fine; the piece is entertainingly expressive, and a hardass editor cutting out modifiers would probably kill the major joys therein to be had. This here is to urge the guy forward, not to choke him back into an amble: Rob, write on.
Pumpkins’ new music strikes out again in Pazz & Jop critics poll 1:08 am // Wednesday, January 18, 2012Posted by jjb in criticism, news, teargarden by kaleidyscope.
In the accompanying albums poll, one Pazz & Jop voter allocated some points to November’s deluxe reissue of the 1993 album Siamese Dream, thereby preventing the Pumpkins from being entirely shut out of the poll for a fourth consecutive year.
“Lightning Strikes,” from the Pumpkins’ Teargarden by Kaleidyscope project, debuted March 17 on the website of Rolling Stone. Another Teargarden song, “Owata,” appeared May 3; the band later promoted the track with a short film and music video.
Wheelchair Sports Camp’s cover of the MC Meals on Wheels freestyle “My Vagina Ain’t Handicapped” is among the 2,225 singles receiving at least one mention in the poll.
Yet another contradiction 12:19 pm // Wednesday, December 14, 2011Posted by jjb in critic vs. critic, gish, siamese dream, zeitgeist.
Since the mid-’90s, declares AJ Ramirez of PopMatters in his almost 2,000-word review today of the Gish and Siamese Dream reissues, the Smashing Pumpkins’ “stock has plummeted drastically,” and the band has “hastened down the path toward irrelevancy,” this largely because anyone with sense can tell that the band’s newer music sucks:
The extremely devoted among the Pumpkins faithful will argue until they are blue in their faces in favor of the 2007 comeback LP Zeitgeist and the currently-ongoing Teargarden by Kaleidyscope song cycle, but everyone else sees Corgan carrying on without any of his original bandmates as he and his latest roll call run through the songwriter’s dodgy new material. It’s hard not to feel that the Pumpkins are a shadow of their former glory.
Calling Siamese Dream “my favorite album ever,” Ramirez gives its reissue a perfect score of 10 while rating the Gish package a 7.
In 2007, PopMatters critic Mike Schiller bestowed an 8 of 10 rating upon Zeitgeist, describing the album as ”one more beautiful, beautiful contradiction” from Pumpkins chief Billy Corgan (Corgan himself being “a walking, living, breathing, contradiction” in Schiller’s judgment).
Billy Corgan believes in all his songs. 9:43 pm // Monday, October 3, 2011Posted by jjb in analysis, billy corgan, criticism, interview, oceania, zeitgeist.
Let us get that clear, right from the outset. If and when—it’s when—the Smashing Pumpkins auteur seemingly disparages his own past work, you must read with caution. Take the following statement, made today by Corgan as part of the “#SPRCtakeover” question-and-answer session hosted on Twitter by Live Nation:
If four years ago you were among the sizable group of fans and critics who appreciated the gold-certified album Zeitgeist, you may be feeling some resentment. “Hey,” you think. “I told people I liked that record in 2007. Is Billy Corgan trying retroactively to align himself with Pitchfork and the NME against Rolling Stone, PopMatters, and me?!”
No, no. Corgan is saying only that you (and David Fricke, etc.) may have made the same error that he now understands himself to have made, back then: you failed to realize that 2007 was the wrong time for that collection of worthy songs. While you were understandably distracted by the sheer quality of the music on Zeitgeist, those who disliked the album sensed that there was a problem, something in the air that year, ineffable but real.
Thankfully, today the problem is gone. Corgan, who misread something in 2007, now knows 2011 is right for Oceania. The detractors of Zeitgeist, sure to recognize the real, ineffable change that has taken place, will listen to Corgan’s new work with fresh ears and assess it on its merits. What are you gonna do?
A.V. Club Chicago slams Corgan over Facebook “assault threats” 10:27 pm // Thursday, August 25, 2011Posted by jjb in billy corgan, criticism, news.
The infotainment website formerly known as Decider Chicago has waded into a bitter dispute between Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan and an Oregon equipment manufacturer.
Following up on three angry tweets made last night (and later deleted) by Corgan, A.V. Club Chicago’s Anna Gross today posted excerpts from Facebook messages “reportedly” sent from Corgan to Devi Ever, 31, of Portland-based firm Effector 13. Gross said that the messages contain “assault threats” and that Corgan’s tweets in reference to Ever showed disrespect toward transgender people.
In 2008, Corgan was accused in Rolling Stone of having resorted to “juvenile homophobia” while arguing with a fan from the stage at a New York concert. Last month, Marah Eakin of A.V. Club Chicago wrote that she hopes Corgan’s new pro wrestling venture “involves [Corgan] getting hit with a lot of chairs.”
Mixed reviews early for “Owata” 5:19 pm // Tuesday, May 3, 2011Posted by alex in criticism, teargarden by kaleidyscope.
Village Voice, hedging its bets: “‘Owata’ finds alt-rock superheel Billy Corgan and his mates … in sweet-as-pie pop mode, lining up synths and a singalong-ready chorus.”
Consequence of Sound, more critically: “What used to be a stripped down, acoustic driver … now remains an overly glossy spectacle, packed with unnecessary synths and chords that sound far too polished and clean.”
Dallas Observer: “The upbeat, synth-heavy track is a bit of a departure for the band [have they been listening to Teargarden?], but it will still surely delight die-hard Pumpkins fans.”
UPDATE 5/4: SPIN weighs in: “The track is a gorgeous, uplifting guitar anthem that mixes slick arena-ready guitar solos with the sharp pop sensibility of classic Fleetwood Mac.”
Critics shut ‘Teargarden’ songs out of 2010 Pazz & Jop singles poll 9:57 pm // Tuesday, January 18, 2011Posted by jjb in criticism, news, teargarden by kaleidyscope.
None of the seven songs released last year by the Smashing Pumpkins was mentioned by any of the over 700 music critics who participated in the annual Village Voice Pazz & Jop singles poll. Some 2,086 songs received at least one mention, among them Cee Lo Green’s smash “Fuck You!” (tops with 187 mentions) and a United Parcel Service jingle.
The Pumpkins have received a grand total of two mentions over the four “Pazz & Jop” singles polls conducted since the band reformed in 2007, neither coming in the last three years.
Big publications agree: No ‘Teargarden’ song among 2010′s best 1:10 am // Wednesday, December 29, 2010Posted by jjb in analysis, criticism, news.
The most prominent rock publications’ lists of the top songs of 2010 are in, and none of the seven songs released this year by the Smashing Pumpkins as part of the Teargarden by Kaleidyscope album is on any of them.
The basis for that statement — one which we would be happy to see disproven; please submit evidence in the comments on this post! — is a scan of twenty best-songs lists we sampled from the exhaustive list of lists maintained by Largehearted Boy. We covered nearly all the lists from sites or blogs familiar to us, plus a few unfamiliar ones. The 20 sampled lists (listed and linked below the fold) contain almost 1,400 entries.
Artists named on at least one of the 20 sampled lists include Blur, OK Go, Usher, Josh Ritter, Thom Yorke, Neil Young, Robert Smith, John Mellencamp, Liz Phair, Alicia Keys, Teenage Fanclub, MGMT, Maps and Atlases, Iron and Wine, the Hold Steady, Interpol, Elton John, John Legend, Soundgarden, Avenged Sevenfold, Jimmy Eat World, Kylie Minogue, Katy Perry, Drake, the Roots, Mavis Staples, Stone Temple Pilots, Slash, Huey Lewis and the News, Willie Nelson, Hole, Miley Cyrus, Cyndi Lauper, Kenny Chesney, Muse, Jack Johnson, Nelly, Black Eyed Peas, Ke$ha, and Gwyneth Paltrow…plus all the artists you expect to have recorded the critics’ favorite songs of 2010. (more…)
What should Pumpkins fans expect in the Pacific Northwest? 10:22 am // Friday, September 10, 2010Posted by jjb in amusing, asinine, critic vs. critic, tour.
‘Answers’ come today from two newspapers.
Don’t expect a nostalgia tour. For one thing, Corgan is the only original member of the band still in the group. For another, he’s touring with new material and that’s what he’s likely to play.
[W]hat should fans expect this time? With a little luck, an older, humbler Billy Corgan ready to play the hits.
Wrestling news site: Corgan “transcends” as cultural ambassador 8:14 pm // Tuesday, August 31, 2010Posted by jjb in billy corgan, criticism, interview, live, television, wrestling.
In a new interview with Mike Johnson of PWInsider.com, Smashing Pumpkins leader Billy Corgan talks about his band’s Mexico City midconcert stunt with wrestlers from la Asistencia Asesoría y Administración and Total Nonstop Action Wrestling. Corgan reveals that the skit (or “angle”) was carried out without its details having been shared beforehand with MTV, which was recording the concert for a future telecast:
I was concerned because I didn’t really tell them what we were going to do. If I had told them [TNA wrestler] Hernandez was going to jack me up in the air, I know they would have said no. So, we just went ahead and did it. Afterward, I had to go and meet with all the MTV brass and do a press conference and whatnot. So, you know, you are kind of walking down the hallway going, “OK, here it comes” but they were all, “Oh, we loved it. That was so cool” and everyone was totally happy.
Corgan also gives a defense of professional wrestling as “high art form” and explains his advocacy on its behalf:
I don’t want to say wrestling’s the underdog. Vince McMahon runs a billion dollar company so he’s hardly an underdog, but I like the rebellious attitude of wrestling. The nature of it. I like that it makes fun of things in the way that it does. It takes on all sorts of things in a very interesting way. Wrestling is at the forefront of a lot of cultural tension and that’s sort of sociological stuff. At the end of the day, it’s just a lot of fun. I couldn’t give a fuck. I just wanted to have fun. I’ve really enjoyed my connection to wrestling and I’ve done everything in my power to bring glory and more respect to something I really love, passionately.
Role reversal as Times, Post evaluate Pumpkins’ New York effort 1:43 pm // Wednesday, July 28, 2010Posted by jjb in criticism, jon pareles, tour.
When the Smashing Pumpkins played Manhattan in 2008 on their controversial “20th Anniversary” tour, music writer Jon Pareles of the New York Times gave their performance a strong endorsement while Dan Aquilante of the New York Post was sharply critical. The same bylines appear on fresh reviews of the Pumpkins’ Monday night concert at Terminal 5, but other things have changed.
Pareles was hesitant to issue praise and closed on an ambivalent note:
For the moment, Mr. [Billy] Corgan is wise not to disdain his old material. The open question is whether his new bandmates will recharge his songwriting.
Add to [Corgan's] physical presence the focus and intensity he brought to the stage, and the package wound up as one of the most potent concerts of the summer so far.
Pumpkins making it happen with hits, new songs, and “Gossamer” 3:49 pm // Wednesday, July 7, 2010Posted by jjb in critic vs. critic, tour, video.
Fan reports and professional reviews are in from the first full-price concert of the Smashing Pumpkins’ U.S. tour, and as usual there is agreement on what songs were performed — a variety of past singles, tracks from Teargarden by Kaleidyscope, and diehard fans’ beloved “Gossamer” — but not on which of them were enjoyable. Music writers Justin Jacobs (for AOL’s Spinner.com) and Michael Gallucci (for Spin Magazine) offer directly conflicting evaluations of older and newer material in this instance of HU’s intermittent feature “Critic vs. Critic.”
The first release from ‘Kaleidyscope,’ ‘A Song for a Son,’ picked up like a classic rock epic, starting slow and simple, adding instruments and volume as the song marched along before breaking into a triumphant gallop. [...]
But the first bona fide classic of the set, ‘Bullet With Butterfly Wings,’ seemed almost tossed off. ‘Disarm’ and ’1979′ were also sped up, taking away much of their delicate intricacies.
“A Song for a Son” especially dragged, and only “Freak” — the fifth Kaleidyscope song, which was released on the Pumpkins’ website yesterday — played as well as familiar favorites like “Bullet With Butterfly Wings,” “1979,” and “Tonight, Tonight.”
Those of us not lucky enough to have been at the gig were in the odd position of being able to watch the Pumpkins play not any of these hits but rather the Gish album track “Tristessa” and unreleased newie “Make It Happen” (video below), both of which were among the numbers witnessed by select fans during soundcheck. Billy Corgan may have requested that those fans not bring recording equipment, but he didn’t say his people wouldn’t use their own and stream the results free to the Internet.
UPDATE (7/8): The complete setlist for this concert has been posted on spfc.org.
A few consumables from the Viper Room show 3:33 pm // Thursday, July 1, 2010Posted by jjb in criticism, live, photo, video.
Passion Pit cover “Tonight, Tonight”, help sell blue jeans 10:14 am // Wednesday, June 23, 2010Posted by jjb in covers, criticism, news, passion pit, video.
Bandleader Michael Angelakos credits the original Smashing Pumpkins track with helping him come to love rock music, so this is a touching tribute. Because, you know, when you think of the mid-90s modern-rock-radio glory days, you think of Levi’s.
UPDATE: Pitchfork’s Tom Breihan dutifully reblogs the track, saying “The Levi’s Pioneer Sessions series, in which newer artists cover the older songs that inspired them, rolls on.”
UPDATE: Carles calls Passion Pit “just ‘a marketing experiment.’” ALSO (6/24): He adds, “Wonder if Billy Corgan is ‘spinning in his grave’ after hearing his timeless song get ‘butchered’ by some fleeting indie buzzband.”
UPDATE (6/24): Perez Hilton: “Check out this amazing cover…”
Singing like a Rolling Stone 3:57 pm // Tuesday, May 25, 2010Posted by jjb in billy corgan, criticism, mick jagger, teargarden by kaleidyscope.
After 20+ years of pretty much no one ever saying that the Rolling Stones were an influence on the Smashing Pumpkins, today’s release of the latter band’s Songs for a Sailor EP has USA Today’s Jerry Shriver and the Arizona Republic’s Ed Masley singing just such a new tune in their (positive) reviews.
This initial batch [of songs from Teargarden by Kaleidyscope] finds Corgan sounding like a young (and less affected) Mick Jagger and his reconfigured band navigating a delicious swirl of howling psychedelic rock and melodic ballads.
Billy Corgan’s rarely sounded more indebted to the legends of a bygone era than he does on this, the first in an 11-volume series of EPs. And it goes beyond how eerily Mick Jagger-esque his vocals are in spots.
A few evaluative statements regarding “A Stitch in Time” 5:18 pm // Tuesday, March 2, 2010Posted by jjb in critic vs. critic, teargarden by kaleidyscope.
“So bad.” –Antiquiet
“Gorgeous.” –Beat Crave
“Total snoreville… zzzzzzzzz.” –Spin
“Nice vintage-Pumpkins sound.” –Vulture
Pitchfork clears out its inbox 11:59 pm // Monday, January 4, 2010Posted by apm in criticism, pitchfork, teargarden by kaleidyscope.
Pitchfork published a review of “A Song for a Son” today, nearly a month after it was released (3 days to spare!). The review was written by noted MP3 blogger (and HU blogroll entrant) Matthew Perpetua.
While Pitchfork’s initial news post about the song’s release was surprisingly positive (given past history), Perpetua returned to the usual Pitchfork treatment of Billy Corgan, branding the song with a whoppingly awful score of 2. On the other hand, Perpetua did provide the following bit of constructive (?) criticism, saying the song is
…not awful so much as it is bloated and dreary.
So it has that going for it.
I tried to take a scan through Pitchfork’s track reviews to see what company Song for a Son is keeping with its score of 2, but Pitchfork’s “Advanced Search” capability is either Firefox incompatible or just plain broken. Therefore, I hereby give Pitchfork’s search functionality a 0.0.
Spinner ups professionally edited videos of Corgan interview 2:35 pm // Tuesday, December 22, 2009Posted by jjb in billy corgan, criticism, interview, revival, video.
AOL’s Spinner.com today shares two segments of video from its December 4 interview with Smashing Pumpkins leader Billy Corgan. PowerPoint-like title cards, a generic soundtrack, and the stark white backdrop behind Corgan are all disconcerting, but the questions are good. Two transcribed portions follow.
From the first segment:
Spinner title card: Why did you announce the return of Smashing Pumpkins on the day your solo album was released?
Corgan: I started having conversations with Jimmy Chamberlin when he was working on his solo record and I was working on my solo record. We talked about the idea of, depending of how the cycles went on those albums, that we wanted to start working on the Pumpkins again, and then we talked invariably about the other former members. It wasn’t really so much planned out as it was sort of an idea, like, “Okay, this is going to happen, so let’s start pointing in that direction.” Part of the reason that I took the full-page ad out announcing that I was going to try to put the band back together was because I didn’t want to go around the world on my solo record and just talk about the Pumpkins as a ghost — I wanted to sort of put it back in, like, okay, here it is again. I wanted to create the proper context that I was in, which was “I’m doing this now, but I’m headed back this way.” It was very interesting to see people’s reactions, because it put a weird energy into the solo touring. Some people were really mad. I thought they’d be excited, but they didn’t want to wait — they were like, “Make it happen now.”
From the second:
Spinner title card: Do you think the media have been fair to you and Smashing Pumpkins over the years?
Corgan: Probably not, but at this point I think it kind of doesn’t matter anymore, because enough things have happened where it exists on its own oxygen. When you’re young, you need people’s approval, you need somebody’s positive reinforcement, whether it’s your parents or it’s the indie mag or whatever. Then you just reach a point where you’re grown up and you don’t need it — it’s nice, but you don’t need it.
I’m responsible in the sense that I’ve created a lot of difficult questions about why I do what I do and what the point is — and none of them are easy, they’re not like, “Oh, he’s like this,” or “He’s like that.” The band was very alternative, and yet at the same time we were very popular. We sold lots of records, but we did things that were completely the opposite of what you were supposed to do to sell records. Always a contradiction, always playing with the energies. You know, in rock and roll, people like really simple stories: “Genius rolls out of bed, shoots heroin, writes a great song — perfect!” Being sober, articulate, shadowy, confusing, religious…these are all, like, “What?” I get why that’s not an easy sell, but I think the work is there.
Outta nowhere, a former burger flipper… 7:25 pm // Wednesday, December 2, 2009Posted by jjb in brent dicrescenzo, interview, mike byrne.
Confidentiality agreements prevent the newcomer from discussing specific studio locations, track details or song titles. But the jovial adolescent frankly discusses his budding relationship with [Billy Corgan,] his 42-year-old bandleader.
“He’s a really, really easy guy to get along with,” Byrne says. “From the day I got there he was totally open to my opinion”—except at lunchtime, when a lingering McDonald’s addiction rubs up against Corgan, a vocal PETA supporter. “I get dirty looks when they’re eating their crazy green macrobiotic shakes,” Byrne says, laughing. “I’m sitting there with a Quarter Pounder, like, what?”
HU Podcast #52: The Red Book Dialogue 6:02 pm // Tuesday, November 17, 2009Posted by chris in backwards clock society, criticism, idolator, maura johnston, podcast, teargarden by kaleidyscope.
This week we talked a bit about Teargarden and the Backwards Clock Society, but mostly Jill gives an in-depth report on the Red Book dialogue that Billy Corgan took part in last weekend.
This week’s topics:
-Chris, Jason, Jill, and Andrew
-We speculate on the nature of the “delay” in the debut of Teargarden by Kaleidyscope and discuss the possibility of a partnership with another website for distribution. (8:44)
-We give our reactions to the new songs played by the Backwards Clock Society and revisit some post-Jimmy speculation. (6:17)
-Jill gives her report on the Billy’s appearance at the Red Book dialogue. (35:12)
-Jason talks about Maura Johnston, recently of Idolator, and what made her an effective critic. (13:41)
Song of the Week
-Tom Tom, Los Angeles, CA November 8, 2009
We’ll not be podcasting for the next few weeks due to the Thanksgiving holiday. Hopefully we will be giving our report on the first Teargarden song upon our return.