Welcome to Dissected, where we disassemble a band’s catalog, a director’s filmography, or some other critical pop-culture collection in the abstract. It’s exact science by way of a few beers. This time, we sort through the best and worst of Billy Corgan’s favorite outfit.
Thank god St. Petersburg, FL, has forever been a shitty place for music. Otherwise, a young and very straggly Billy Corgan might not have returned home to Chicago to form The Smashing Pumpkins. Equal thanks goes to Metro Cabaret owner Joe Shanahan, whose insistence that the band find a drummer led to the discovery and recruitment of jazz percussionist Jimmy Chamberlin. Without him, it’s very likely Corgan would have spent years attempting to recreate Seventeen Seconds, Faith, or Pornography in lieu of the rock ‘n’ roll masterpieces that framed most of the ’90s.
What separates the Pumpkins from most of their contemporaries, however, is their mired past. Controversy, chaos, conflict, and corruption strangled the band’s foundation for years: from the hellish recording sessions behind 1993’s Siamese Dream, to the bitter spats with an indie Rolodex of Pavement, Steve Albini, and Bob Mould, and eventually to the tragedies surrounding Chamberlin’s dark, druggy days amidst 1998’s Adore. It’s a difficult task being a Pumpkin, and heavy is the head who wears the crown, aka the Pumpkin King himself. Shuffles in the lineup, the loud and unforgiving media, and a fractured fanbase haven’t been kind to Corgan over the years — and yet, he continues to wave the moniker around.
Next week, EMI will continue its elaborate reissues with the re-release of their 1996 box set, The Aeroplane Flies High. In response, we finally buckled under the pressure and decided to dissect the Pumpkins’ catalogue with our bratty ears, our snarky fingers, and a case of Pabst. We’ve heard these songs and albums so many times that they’ve become go-to artifacts to remember our youth. Because of this, there’s always a warm bowl of angst waiting for us upon our return to songs like “Perfect”, “Soma”, or “Crush”.
Then again, if you’re new to the band — thanks to last year’s excellent Oceania — odds are you’ll have no fucking clue as to what we’re babbling about. Just remember, Billy once had hair (!), and it was OK to discuss people like D’arcy, James, and Jimmy.
Christ, here we go.