THE SMASHING PUMPKINS is essentially the love child of all the crazy symphonic thoughts rattling around in Billy Corgan's head. What has sprung forth from this mad genius is some of the most beautiful and interesting alternative rock in the past 20 years so please take some time with me to go over some of their greatest works.
The original PUMPKINS lineup includes James Iha on the guitar, D'arcy Wretzky on the bass, and Jimmy Chamberlin as one of the best drummers in modern rock. This lineup has changed several times through the years.
PUMPKINS has released nine studio albums with their second album being one of my all-time favorites: Gish (1991), Siamese Dream (1993), Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (1995), Adore (1998), Machina/The Machines of God (2000), Machina II/The Friends & Enemies of Modern Music (2000), Zeitgeist (2007), Teargarden by Kaleidyscope (2009), and Oceania (2012).
10. "X.Y.U." - album: Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (1995)
This may be their angriest song. The almost demented version of "Mary Had A Little Lamb" that concludes the song is a great touch making Billy seem more unhinged. (Is that even possible?!)
9. "Bullet With Butterfly Wings" - album: Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (1995)
Despite all my rage I'm still just a rat in a cage
What a chorus! In the mid-nineties, people were wondering who would take the reigns of new rock royalty from the recently fallen NIRVANA and this was the song that gave the title to the PUMPKINS. Bullet's chorus echoed out of radios like "Smells Like Teen Spirit" did before it. My favourite part is the tom-filled bridge around the 2:27 mark.
8. "Tarantula" - album: Zeitgeist (2007)
Even though a lot of people didn't care for the PUMPKINS' 2007 "comeback album" Zeitgeist, I think it contained some gems including this heavy, high-energy first single. I love the interplay between the lead and rhythm guitar after the guitar solo.
7. "Today" - album: Siamese Dream (1993)
This song fits that nineties' style of quiet verses-loud choruses perfectly. I really enjoy the dissonance created between the power chord rhythm guitar and lead guitar bend during the chorus; it gives the song a flash of sinister flare.
6. "Geek USA" - album: Siamese Dream (1993)
Listen to the drums on this song! I know I already extolled the abilities of drummer Jimmy Chamberlin and this is a shining example of how good he can be.
5. "Ava Adore" - album: Adore (1998)
How cool does this sound? This overtly sexy song makes me want to strut around. If the chorus was darker sounding, this song may have been number one.
4. "Spaceboy" - album: Siamese Dream (1993)
The combination of acoustic guitar and mellotron is perfect. The "Spaceboy" in the song is supposedly DAVID BOWIE, possibly referring to his song "Space Oddity" or maybe his time as space-hunk Ziggy Stardust.
3. "1979" - album: Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (1995)
This song has that instantly recognizable guitar riff and that glorious echoing high tone. Of all the many slow but symphonic songs that PUMPKINS have produced (e.g "Disarm", "Perfect", "Tonight, Tonight", so many more), I truly believe "1979" is the superior one.
2. "Zero" - album: Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (1995)
This fuzz-ladened riff is so good. The combination of the heavily distorted guitars and bass plus Corgan's hyena-like voice makes for a great murky atmosphere. I love it when the PUMPKINS go for a darker tone.
1. "The Beginning Is The End Is The Beginning" - album: Batman & Robin: Music from and Inspired by the "Batman & Robin" Motion Picture (1997)
Speaking of darker tone... The jewel of the PUMPKINS' varied catalog is this incredibly noir song. Found on the fantastic soundtrack for the frustrating movie Batman & Robin, this song is actually the slowed version of their Grammy award winning song "The End is the Beginning is the End".
I enjoy this version better because of those echoing drums, those fleeting high pitched piano keys, the haunting electronic-tinged strings, plus Corgan's sniveling voice, it all comes together to create a jarring sound.
Is it bright where you are?
Have the people changed?
Does it make you happy you're so strange?
And in your darkest hour
I hold secrets flame
We can watch the world devoured in it's pain
As you can tell by now, even though this song was created for the Batman franchise, it certainly found it's home on the Watchmen film:
So the latest iteration of PUMPKINS were here in Toronto last week (Billy Corgan, of course, Mike Byrne on drums, Nicole Fiorentino on bass, and Jeff Schroeder on rhythm guitar) and for their performance they started the show by doing their latest album Oceania in its entirety before moving onto PUMPKINS classics. Although I heard the crowd didn't really care for it, I really enjoy Oceania and it truly is some of Corgan's best work in years. Please don't discount it if you've never listened to it because you are missing out!
PUMPKINS also bridged the new album and their old classics with a cover of BOWIE's classic "Space Oddity" which is a favourite song of mine.
My Love Is Winter
One Diamond, One Heart
Space Oddity (by David Bowie)
Bullet With Butterfly Wings
A Song for a Son
Stand Inside Your Love