Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Bury Me

After discussing the Smashing Pumpkins' "reunion" with fellow hardcore Smashing Pumpkins fan Ryan, I wanted to share my feelings on the matter here.

No matter how much one can make light of James Iha and D'arcy's contributions to the band's original line-up, they were an integral part of the band's identity. They may have not played all the bass or second guitar parts on the albums, but that's a moot point. It's like saying Dennis Wilson wasn't really an integral member of the Beach Boys because Hal Blaine played drums on all the hit records. The point is, while almost every song was written by Billy Corgan and Jimmy Chamberlin played on almost every record, there was a special chemistry there (dysfunctions and all).

The Billy/James/D'arcy/Jimmy line-up is the line-up that made the band. No matter how many copies Zeitgeist sells, the majority of the fans going to the shows want to hear songs from Gish, Siamese Dream, and Melon Collie and the Infinite Sadness rather than new songs. They want "Disarm," "Bullet With Butterfly Wings" and "Today" and will tolerate "God and Country" and "Tarantula" if it requires getting to them.

All this said, I can understand why Billy resurrected the band's name. Like Page Hamilton resurrecting the Helmet name, as chief songwriter and frontman, these new songs were going to be compared to the old songs no matter what. So it makes sense to just use the brand name instead of hiding behind a different one. Billy and Jimmy tried the different name approach with Zwan and that didn't seem to pan out. (Personally, I found Zwan to be a great post-Pumpkins project. However, I seem to be in the minority view.)

There's an epidemic with music fans: they always want one more encore. It doesn't matter what the logistics are, they want another round to see if it's worth a damn. The deal is, nine times out of ten, bands' legacies get damaged in the process. These encores are usually seen as footnotes in the bands' histories. Don't believe me? Look at the rather scant information on the Clash after Topper Headon and Mick Jones left. Look really hard for information about the Velvet Underground sans Lou Reed.

Yes, I'm a purist about these sorts of things, but I have plenty of reasons why. I have plenty of fond memories listening to Melon Collie, Siamese Dream, The Aeroplane Flies High and Machina, as well as watching Vieuphoria over and over again. Nothing is going to replace those memories. Yet I find it odd to see a band use a brand name knowing that it's definitely not the same band. Frankly, I find it lame and cheap.


Zine-O-Phonic said...

I'm still going to drag your ass to one of the shows in Texas.

Billy said his decision to go back to the Pumpkins was that he wanted his old songs back. He did the Zwan thing, a whole series of acoustic Chicago songs, a poetry book/readings, and even a solo album.

Billy didn't play Pumpkins during the hiatus. If you saw Zwan, they only played Zwan songs(besides a few random covers).

D'arcy left the band during Machina, and James no longer wanted to be involved. I'm fine with them being gone, because they were expendable players. So you and I differ there.

Though they haven't performed any Gish material yet, they are covering most of their catalog in the shows, and mixing in the new songs.

Personally I would have liked to see a retrospective show before getting new material, but Billy always does things a little different.

jen said...

i like how you refer to it as "the brand name".