All around the world, the top thinkers of our time ask themselves one unanswerable question: How do The Smashing Pumpkins still exist?
They’re the shower singer’s dream band; everyone can sing in a complaining, high-pitched whine. They’re the bane of the karaoke singer’s existence; that shit never sounds good in a microphone.
Were you aware The Smashing Pumpkins are still releasing an album every two years? Were you aware they’re in the middle of a 44-song concept album being released over a span of eight years? Were you aware that drummer Jimmy Chamberlin was fired from the band because of drug abuse, re-joined the band, left the band to start his own band, re-joined the band, left the band to be a massively successful tech investor and is back in the band again?
Are you aware that Chicago once declared July 7 to be Smashing Pumpkins Day? That’s right, Chicago can’t keep track of its cops, it’s signing every public function over to private companies, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel is hiding somewhere in a bunker hoping nobody finds him, but it’s OK – cause they have a Smashing Pumpkins Day, dammit.
So how and why do The Smashing Pumpkins still exist? I mean, aside from Billy Corgan being a vampire…
Look, the 1990s were weird. In the 90s, that video I just posted would’ve made complete sense and it would’ve aired on CBS during prime-time. Now, Tuesday is “NCIS” Day. What happened to us, America?
Simply put, the 1990s featured a short-lived trend where a band and a single artist were essentially the same thing. Nine Inch Nails albums all featured the following phrase in their inserts: “Nine Inch Nails is Trent Reznor.” Nine Inch Nails literally can’t break up unless Trent Reznor disintegrates.
Hell, when Tori Amos first launched her career, it was as the band Y Kant Tori Read. (They changed that really quickly.) And the less the name made sense, the more alternative and attractive it was. Back then, Taylor Swift would’ve been known as Ambient Knuckle Republic. Katy Perry would’ve been Spider Volcano Killjoy. Justin Bieber would’ve been Crab Drip. (Man, the random word generator I’m using really got that last one right.)
That means, as long as Billy Corgan is alive, Smashing Pumpkins exists. That’s right, he’s like Tim Curry’s Darkness in “Legend.”
Man, never mind, the 80s were way weirder.
Now, I’m not saying Billy Corgan has a unicorn chained up in his basement somewhere. But I am saying we don’t know if he does. Would you be at all surprised?
One of the awesome things about Corgan and The Smashing Pumpkins is that – in a world where rock and alternative are still dominated by men, half the rotating crew of his band have been women. D’arcy Wretzky was a founding member who left in 1999. Melissa Auf der Maur (of Hole) replaced her the first time the band re-formed. Nicole Fiorentino (of Veruca Salt) replaced her in the 2009 reformation. Katie Cole and Sierra Swan are current members. That’s one element that’s allowed Smashing Pumpkins to not just survive, but to still be making good, worthwhile music – they don’t limit themselves to 50 percent of the talent they could.
Because of that, they still sound good and they’re still breaking new ground. That’s not the case for many other re-formed 90s acts who, instead of making something new, try to sound like they did 20 years ago (ahem, Soundgarden). Here, have a listen:
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a midnight raid on Billy Corgan’s basement to plan. Let’s see, left from the entrance hall, past the Cave of Coffins, right at the glittering waterfall that will demand the answers to three questions….