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"My kids love you, and thanks to your gloomy music they've finally stopped dreaming of a future I can't possibly provide."
Formed in 1988, The Smashing Pumpkins
are were are a Grunge band, Kind of, or... maybe a Shoegazing band? No, what about Gothic Metal? Not really that either. The Smashing Pumpkins are a Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly band from The Windy City, consisting of Billy Corgan. Okay, that's not true, there's three or four other band members, but Corgan's the songwriter, lead vocalist and the only member who's been present throughout the band's entire lifespan, so we'll start from there.
The band is known for anguished lyrics and dense production—kind of like Alanis Morissette, but male and louder. Other features include an epic scope (perhaps best displayed by the music video for Tonight, Tonight) and Corgan's nasal singing voice. After sticking to mostly heavy rock with experimental/progressive elements for their first three albums, the Pumpkins swerved over into electronica territory for one entry, returning to form thereafter due to significant fan disappointment. They were also one of the first bands to experiment with online distribution: Machina II / The Friends and Enemies of Modern Music had a print run of exactly 25 vinyl records given to select friends, family and fans, with orders attached to rip and upload to the Internet for free.
Almost as tumultuous was the band's internal affairs. The band consisted originally of secondary guitarist James Iha, bassist D'arcy Wretzky, drummer Jimmy Chamberlin and (of course) Corgan, whose obsessive perfectionism drove the others to distraction; Iha and Wretzky were often Garfunkeled on albums, their parts re-done by Corgan . Plus, Chamberlin, described by Iha and Wretzky as the only non-Corgan member who was actually important to the band's sound, was also an inveterate druggie. The result was a band plagued by Troubled Productions and often teetering on the edge of full-on Creator Breakdown. Then tragedy struck during the Mellon Collie tour, when session keyboardist Jonathan Melvoin died of a heroin overdose while shooting up with Chamberlin. Jimmy was fired, which might have had something to do with the electronica sound of Adore. Unfortunately, people listen to the Pumpkins for their rock sound, and Adore was pretty much a wipe critically. Chamberlin straightened himself out and rejoined, just in time for Wretzky to quit, replaced by Hole bassist Melissa Auf der Maur, and the band produced one more album (well, technically two) before announcing they would break up at the end of 2000. And, for a while, all was quiet in Pumpkinland.
In '05, Corgan released his solo album. He then upstaged himself by, on the very same day, announcing that he was reforming the Smashing Pumpkins. He and Chamberlin were the only permanent members (Iha and Wretzky are on record as declining to participate), which also changed after the release of their first post-reunion album. Chamberlin's split was amicable this time; he has been replaced by the 19-year-old newcomer Mike Byrne, and current bassist Nicole Fiorentino and guitarist Jeff Schroeder are also participating in-studio. The Pumpkins are once again experimenting with digital distribution; their next album, Teargarden by Kaleidyscope [sic], is going to be released, song by song, for free on the band's website.
The Pumpkins claim inspiration from bands like Queen, Boston, My Bloody Valentine and The Cure. What is really interesting, though, is that almost nobody claims to take any inspiration from them; just about the only bands on record for that are My Chemical Romance, Kill Hannah, and neo-shoegaze band Silversun Pickups. Oh, and they're on Guitar Hero, Rock Band and the soundtracks for several blockbuster movies, such as the first live-action Transformers excursion.
Studio album discography:
- Gish (1991) - the debut album, occasionally overlooked.
- Siamese Dream (1993) - Growing the Beard, the mainstream breakthrough thanks to "Today".
- The two were remastered and reissued in 2011.
- Mellon Collie and The Infinite Sadness (1995) - the epic double album.
- Adore (1998) - the electronica album.
- Machina/The Machines of God (2000) - the attempted comeback.
- Machina II/The Friends and Enemies of Modern Music (2000) - not a commercial release and, for that matter, was not intended to be; Corgan wanted Virgin Records to make the album free to anyone who had bought Machina I. When they declined, he just gave it to everyone.
- Zeitgeist (2007) - the first post-reunion album.
- Teargarden By Kaleidyscope - under construction.
- Oceania - a 13 track "Album within an Album".
There's also a bunch of EPs and compilations like:
- Lull (1991) - first EP. In Billy's words: the EP was really supposed to be a single but they tricked me.
- Pisces Iscariot (1994) - compilation of BSides, demos and outtakes from the 'Gish' and 'Siamese Dream' era.
- The Aeroplane Flies High (1996) - box set including all the singles and B-sides from the Mellon Collie era.
- Judas ∅ (2001) - more B-sides and rarities, bonus disc coming with the Greatest Hits Album Rotten Apples.
- Rarities and B-Sides (2005) - Exactly What It Says on the Tin: gathering just about every B-side and rarity for a total of 114 tracks.
Provides examples of:
- Bald of Awesome: Billy, starting in the Mellon Collie era, although some may view it as Bald of Evil.
- Careful with That Axe
- Concept Album: Mellon Collie, both Machina albums (chart by Billy here), Teargarden (similar chart here).
- Cover Version: "A Girl Named Sandoz" by The Animals, "Terrapin" by Syd Barrett, "Landslide" by Fleetwood Mac, "Dancing in the Moonlight" by Thin Lizzy, "You're All I've Got Tonight" by The Cars, "Clones (We're All)" by David Carron, "A Night Like This" by The Cure, "Destination Unknown" by Missing Persons, "Dreaming" by Blondie, the classic pop tune "My Blue Heaven", "Rock On" by David Essex, "Soul Power" by James Brown, "Sad Peter Pan" by Vic Chestnutt, and those are just the ones that made it onto albums and compilations.
- Conveyor Belt Video, The Oner: "Ava Adore"
- Development Hell: 'Teargarden by Kaleidyscope' is going to have 44 songs over 11 E Ps. 10 Songs have been released so far.
- Album re-issues. They were originally announced back in late 2000 during the Break-up.
- 'The Last Show' (see Grand Finale entry below). Announced along with the Greatest hits CD/DVD.
- 'Oceania'. Originally scheduled to be released in September 2011. Production wrapped in September. Then pushed back to November, then Early 2012. Billy announced March 2012 as the new released date, but who knows.
- Digital Piracy Is Evil: Subverted. As mentioned above, Machina II was intended to be leaked onto the internet for free. Teargarden by Kaleidyscope is being released song-by-song for free on the band's website.
- Doomsday Clock: "Doomsday Clock"
- Dude Looks Like a Lady: James Iha playing a Wholesome Crossdresser in the video for "Today."
- Corgan's stage attire has often included dresses/skirts.
- Epic Riff: "Today," "Siva," and "Zero"
- Epic Rocking: Quite a lot - "Rhinoceros", "Hummer", "Soma", "Silverfuck", "Porcelina of the Vast Oceans", "Thru The Eyes of Ruby", "X.Y.U.", "Tear", "Shame", "Cherub Rock," "For Martha", "Glass and the Ghost Children", "Heavy Metal Machine (alternate take)", "In My Body", "Starla", "Pastichio Medley" (23:00!), "The Aeroplane Flies High (Turns Left, Looks Right)" ...oh, we could go on.
- For Doom the Bell Tolls ("Disarm")
- Grand Finale: The last show at the Metro in 2000 arguably.(link).
- Grunge: They benefitted heavily from the Alternative Rock wave out of Seattle, but they don't really fit into the scene because they had a more experimental sound, probably closer to pure Alternative Rock or even Alternative Metal.
- Heavy Meta
- Hey, It's That Guy!: Tom Kenny and Jill Talley in Tonight Tonight.
- I Am Not Shazam: Spell My Name with a "The". 'Smashing' is an adjective in this case.
- Their name on their first album was in an arc, so they removed the "the" to make it more symmetrical. Confusion ensued.
- The reason why it was also lacking a "the" on Siamese Dream is a mystery though, especially since the "the" shows up in the CD edition's booklet.
- I Am the Band: Billy Corgan.
- Limited Special Collectors Ultimate Edition: Zeitgeist came in six different versions, only one of which actually contained the title track.
- Lyrical Dissonance: "Today" - musically (mostly) upbeat, lyrically sarcastic and based on Corgan's depression and suicidal thoughts.
- Lyrics Video Mismatch - "Tonight Tonight". The video is essentially a shot-for-shot remake of the 1902 sci-fi short A Trip to the Moon.
- Metal Scream
- Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness - Anywhere from a 1 to 8. But generally in the 2 (Tonight Tonight) to 6 (Bullet With Butterfly Wings) range.
- Mood Whiplash: On Mellon Collie, the beautiful "1979" is followed by the Pumpkins' heaviest song, "Tales of a Scorched Earth." Also, "Take Me Down" (the last track on disc 1) is followed by "Where Boys Fear to Tread" (the first track on disc 2)
- Music Video Overshadowing: for "Today", a Lyrically Dissonant song about suicide
- Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly: They're a goth-dream pop-progressive-psychedelic-electronica-metal-shoegaze-alternative rock band.
- Non-Appearing Title: frequently
- Billy, regarding song titles: "Say you write a song about a chandelier, and the chandelier gives off light. And the light is the color red and red reminds you of the color you're not supposed to wear around a bull. So you name the song Cow."
- ...leading to Fridge Brilliance with "Rhinoceros." The chorus is "she knows, she knows, she knows." It sounds, however, like "she nose, she nose, she..."
- Perishing Alt Rock Voice: Corgan, even when doing the Metal Scream Careful with That Axe thing.
- Precision F-Strike: Machina's final track "Age of Innocence" contains the only instance of profanity on the entire record.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: Melvoin's death is supposedly the inspiration for Sarah McLachlan's "Angel".
- Refrain From Assuming: "Bullet With Butterfly Wings"—you know, The One With... The Rat In The Cage?
- It's "Ava Adore", not "We Must Never Be Apart".
- It's "Disarm", not "The Killer In Me" or any variation of.
- Retraux: the "Tonight, Tonight" music video.
- Romance on the Set: Billy's relationship with Jessica of The Veronicas
- Started due to him helping her with their third album.
- James and D'arcy dated during Gish era, but broke up during the writing of Siamese Dream.
- Shaped Like Itself: This line from "Disarm": "What I choose is my choice."
- Step Up to the Microphone: D'arcy sings "Daydream" and adds additional vocals to "Beautiful", "We Only Come Out at Night", "Farewell and Goodnight" (which has backing vocals by all four bandmembers) and "Dancing in the Moonlight". James did this occasionally on his own tunes and otherwise, but most of them to get shunted to B-sides - "Take Me Down" was the only one that made it to Mellon Collie, "Blew Away" got relegated to Pisces Iscariot, "...said sadly" (with additional vocals by Nina Gordon) and the cover of "Terrapin" were released on the Rarities & B-sides compilation, and so on.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: After James Iha and D'arcy Wretzky declined to participate in the second incarnation of the band, Billy replaced them with...another female bassist and an Asian-American guitarist.
- Title by Number: "1979", "Zero" and "Thirty-Three", (more if you count songs that were never officially released).
- Troubled Production: Siamese Dream. Actually, just about all of the albums, to hear Billy tell it.
- Xtreme Kool Letterz: "Appels + Oranjes" may count.
- Wretzky didn't seem to have a big problem with this - she admitted Corgan tended to record them quicker and more efficiently during Siamese Dream
- one of the key elements of rock & roll is how you use your drums. They didn't have a drummer