Smile Politely

Smashing Pumpkins fans to gather; discuss how crazy Billy Corgan is

For me, there’s the Smashing Pumpkins, and then there’s other music. They are the band that all too obviously defined my adolescence, got me into guitars and through high school. I’ve had to buy Siamese Dream three separate times, I played my first two CDs so much that they physically quit working. I amassed a collection of 500+ live recordings, traded via internet and snail mail from places as far away as Russia. Suffice to say, I am seriously into this band. Or was. The Pumpkins haven’t exactly been in vogue as of late, and this decade hasn’t been kind to Billy Corgan. The massive string of frustrating moments — Zwan, production missteps too numerous to mention, a disturbing decline in Billy Corgan’s vocals, both live and recorded — which have lead up to the currently touring Billy Corgan Experience (or SP2, or whatever you want to call it) is made all the more frustrating by the fact that there’s ample evidence to suggest that the magic is still there, as if someone’s locked it in a cage and forgotten the key. 

For instance, the Chicago Songs project was fantastic, the shows I saw in 2007 and 2008 while Jimmy Chamberlin was still in the band were still hugely enjoyable, and even Zwan had some undeniably great material. Add this up, and you get one seriously bitter fanbase. I can’t think of any other band (Morrisey?) that’s had such a contentious, strained relationship with its fans.

Despite all that, I’m still on the train. Whatever these reissues may say about the Pumpkins’ transformation into what is essentially a nostalgia act, Gish and Siamese Dream are still some of the greatest music ever put to tape. And unlike so many extraneous cash ins, the remastering actually adds some worth in this case — the main thing you’ll probably notice is that the vocals and treble are a bit higher. Having watched Zeitgeist take the loudness wars to an entirely new level, I was terrified that these would come out as blown-out and compressed to hell audio bricks, but that simply isn’t the case. The bonus discs of B-sides, demos, and live tracks are stacked enough to satisfy the obsessive completist in me while (hopefully) still being accessible enough to introduce new fans to SP’s astonishing catalog of non-album and unreleased tracks. The deluxe editions are worth the extra money for the jaw-dropping live versions of “Quiet” and “Snail” alone. If these can get as angry and jaded of a fan as I am excited, I can only imagine how good they must sound to normal people. So I’d ask that you come join me tonight as I buy Siamese Dream for the fourth time, and scream like you’re at a Justin Bieber show when you hear that drum roll:

Smashing Pumpkins Day starts at 5:00 tonight, at Exile on Main St. Performers include Easter, Exiles, the Palace Flophouse, Evil Tents, Withershins, the Chemicals, Mike Ingram and Megan Johns, and the show is free.

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