Sunday, February 3, 2008

Acoustic Pumpkins

I make no bones about the fact that I think Billy Corgan was one of the 5 most important rock music artists of the 1990's. With the Smashing Pumpkins, Corgan seemed able to crank out one epic masterpiece after another. They had a sound like no other band and Corgan wrote some of the best lyrics in rock. They were a weird mix of Boston, Led Zeppelin, and Bauhaus. And for me, it certainly didn't hurt that they're from Chicago. Being a Pumpkins fan during the early 90's in that town was just a magical thing. I remember seeing them at the 1,100 capacity "Cabaret Metro" the week that their second disc "Siamese Dream" was released. By the second song, it was clear to me that this band was far too big for the venue and for Chicago. You just knew they were going to explode.

After a decade of being one of the biggest selling artists in the music industry, drug abuse and personal differences forced Corgan to call the Pumpkins quits in 2000. It all culminated with a epic, 4 hour show at the same "Cabaret Metro" where it all started. Corgan next formed "Zwan" with Pumpkins drummer Jimmy Chamberlin; which quickly disbanded after one CD release. Next up was a criminally underrated Corgan solo disc called "The Future Embrace", which no one cared about at all. Oddly, on the day of that album's release; Corgan took out a full page add in the Chicago Tribune proclaiming that he was reuniting the Smashing Pumpkins. Original members James Iha (Guitar/Vocals) and D'Arcy(Bass) were either not invited or declined Billy's invitation, but in 2007 Corgan put out an album and toured (with Jimmy on drums) as Smashing Pumpkins without them.

Knowing that Corgan was always the mastermind behind the sound, I eagerly awaited the release of the CD, which is called "Zeitgeist". That CD ranks as not only the biggest disappointment of 2007, but perhaps one of the biggest disappoints in rock next to "Kilroy Was Here". It sounds like a Smashing Pumpkins cover band without any of the irony. It was all bombast and overdubs with none of the subtlety that tended to inhabit the band's best earlier work. I listened to it about 10 times and decided that the Smashing Pumpkins were now going into the memory banks of bands I outgrew, next to REO Speedwagan and Herman's Hermits.

Well hold on one second....Corgan and the current Pumpkins have just released a 4 song EP available only on I-Tunes. It is titled "American Gothic" and after listening to it many times, my faith is reborn. It proves that Corgan can still write amazing melodies and lyrics. The sound is mostly acoustic and has a folky vibe to it that sounds like musicians actually sitting in a room playing together. I post it here because I fear after the disaster that was "Zeitgeist", many of the fans Corgan had left have given up like I did. Please give these 4 tracks a spin and let's hope Billy Corgan uses some of this sound in whatever he chooses to do next.

Smashing Pumpkins-American Gothic
"The Rose March"

"Again, Again, Again (The Crux)"



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