Back in '87 guitarist/vocalist Billy Corgan teamed with bassist D'Arcy. The duo managed to record some songs for Sub-Pop. By '91 guitarist James Iha and drummer Jimmy Chamberlin had joined. That same year their debut "Gish" was out. '93 saw the release of "Siamese Dream" which contained "Cherub Rock" and "Disarm," a song that got banned by the BBC... what, the lyrics too honest? It's an incredible track, with bite and vengeance. What's even more amazing is that it's acoustic. No crashing drums or blazing guitar, only Corgan's vocals... a perfect combination of malice and control.
You'd have to travel a long road to find a more powerful double CD set than "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness." It opens with a somber piano synth intro… have they gone new age? Nope, soon the piano yields to the powerful "Tonight, Tonight." But the best moments are "Bullet With Butterfly Wings" and "1979. "Bullet" is one of the most riveting songs ever written while "1979" bubbles to oblivion on a great riff.
Even with this artistic and commercial success things took a nasty turn. The Pumpkins' touring keyboard player Jonathan Melvoin died in NY from a heroin OD in '96. If that weren't bad enough he was getting high with Chamberlin who ran into all kinds of legal trouble and just managed to escape getting locked up. But Chamberlin did get himself kicked out of Smashing Pumpkins. A cleaned up Chamberlin re-joined the group in '99.
Smashing Pumpkins released "MACHINA/The Machines Of God" in '00. The band displayed their patented alternative Rock sound and even dipped into Heavy Metal. "Try, Try, Try" and "The Imploding Voice" are but two songs that showed Corgan's range. The former was a textured masterpiece while the latter was the band's own unique take on Metal… with tons of imagery. Taken as a whole, the "MACHINA" made an excellent piece of Rock theater. Too bad the Pumpkins' days were numbered. Following a tour the group broke up in '00. Corgan's first post-Pumpkins stop was Zwan. From there he made his '05 solo debut with "TheFutureEmbrace."
Ever since Corgan spoke publicly about wanting to play Pumpkins' songs again (with the Pumpkins) it seemed inevitable the group would re-form - even if Corgan was the only original member. In the end, Chamberlin signed on but D'Arcy and Iha took a pass. In their place, Jeff Schroeder and Ginger Reyes, took over second guitarist and bassist duties, respectively.
A few months later, the Pumpkins gave their first public performance in nearly seven years. The May, '07, Paris show was the launch of a European tour that was followed by a U.S. trek. Comeback album "Zeitgeist" dropped that summer. In an interesting marketing move, the CD contained a different bonus track dependant on where it was sold: Best Buy ("Death From Above"), Target ("Zeitgeist") and iTunes ("Stellar"). Anything to keep the CD format viable.
The Pumpkins appeared at Live Earth in July '07 and were featured on the subsequent three disc, "Live Earth -- The Concerts For A Climate In Crisis." In the fall, the group co-headlined the three-day Voodoo Music Experience in New Orleans along with another recently reformed group, Rage Against The Machine. But just a few days later, the Pumpkins were forced to postpone two Atlanta shows after Jimmy Chamberlin was admitted to a hospital complaining of chest pains. Doctors ordered the drummer to get rest.
The Smashing Pumpkins reissued "Zeitgeist" with a bonus DVD and extra tracks exclusively through Best Buy. The set included a full-length documentary, Inside The Zeitgeist. In early '08, the group unfurled "American Gothic," a four-track acoustic EP, via iTunes.
Later that year, Smashing Pumpkins were inducted into Hollywood's RockWalk. Corgan and Chamberlin (the only original members left) were on hand for the L.A. ceremony. "I'm so used to bad vibes, people hating our band and throwing things at us," said Corgan. "So it's strange to be honored."
Then there was the arrival of a two-DVD set "If All Goes Wrong," chronicling the band's '07 multi-show residencies in Asheville, NC, and San Francisco. There was a 105-minute documentary and a 115-minute concert culled from the San Francisco shows.
Any "strangeness" generated by the RockWalk honor eventually gave way to the usual angst. In March, '09, Corgan became the last original band member standing when a post on the group's website announced that Chamberlin had left. "I can no longer commit all of my energy into something that I don't fully possess," wrote Chamberlin. "I won't pretend I'm into something I'm not. I won't do it to myself, you the fan or my former partner [Corgan]." A Pumpkins' statement said, "Corgan will continue to write and record as Smashing Pumpkins."
A month later, in a lengthy blog post, Corgan discussed why he was carrying on. "When I decided to write and record again under the name the Smashing Pumpkins in '05, I committed myself 100 percent," he explained. "I'm not going to back out . . . now."
Then news arrived that the Corgan/Pumpkins had found a drummer - 19-year-old Berklee College of Music freshman Mike Byrne. "Word from the studio is that Mike is an exceptionally talented and gifted drummer and things are going very well," said a post on the Pumpkins' website. "And that is that."
Corgan once again answered criticism for continuing to work under the Smashing Pumpkins banner. "The music I am making sounds like the Smashing Pumpkins," he insisted. "It doesn't sound like solo work, I can assure you of that. But only when you hear the music can you decide for yourself."
Perhaps to shift attention and to conclusively prove that the business model for the music industry had changed Corgan announced in '09 that the group would give away new songs free on the band's website. "A Song For A Son," the first single from the 44-song project, "Teargarden By Kaleidyscope," was available for download in December on the Smashing Pumpkins' official website.
It "My desire is to release a song at a time… until all 44 are out," said Corgan. "Each song will be made available absolutely for free, to anyone anywhere. There will be no strings attached." The track also marked Byrne's official studio debut.
While the "Teargarden" project was still underway, Corgan worked on the band's line-up. Nicole Fiorentino, formerly with Veruca Salt announced in May,'10, via her MySpace page, that she was the Smashing Pumpkins bassist. This was officially confirmed a few days later.
Fiorentino was the fourth female bassist in Pumpkins' history following D'Arcy Wretzky, Melissa Auf der Maur and Ginger Pooley.
For those who didn't download the songs for free when they were available, "Teargarden By Kaleidyscore - Vol. I: Songs For A Sailor," an EP, and "Vol. II: The Solstice Bare" were later available on CD. The full-length "Vol. II" had "The Fellowship," "Freak," "Tom Tom" and "Spangled," plus an unreleased B-side "Cottonwood Symphony."
On a totally different track, Corgan penned a spiritual memoir title is God Is Everywhere From Here To There. "The book is… about how this boy named William came to find God, or, vice versa, how God came to find William," wrote Corgan on his blog. "I can honestly say that my intention is to write a book that touches deeply on my life in a way that very few people know about, and I am excited by that, but also a bit intimidated. If you have ever wondered how I came to be so mercurial, reactionary, silly, or spiritually open, then this book will provide insight into that," Corgan added.
"Oceania," the band's 7th studio record, was released in '12. It was the first full-length set to feature the lineup of Corgan (who also produced), Fiorentino, drummer Mike Byrne and guitarist Jeff Schroeder. The album was another chapter in the band's "Teargarden By Kaleidyscope" project.
Smashing Pumpkins Discography
Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness
Machina/The Machines Of God
Machina II/The Friends & Enemies Of Modern Music
Teargarden By Kaleidyscope (released online and on CD/vinyl)
Corgan's extended trek in the wilderness appears over with the release of "Zeitgeist." "MACHINA/The Machines Of God" was solid but not the stunning effort that should have wrapped up the Pumpkins' first iteration. The short-lived Zwan and Corgan's '05 solo effort each had their moments. But "Zeitgeist" is the long-awaited, much anticipated, brilliant collection of songs with layered, forceful performances - not to mention a couple surprises.
Whoever picked "Tarantula" to be the lead single made a spot on choice. It's a killer uptempo track. "Doomsday Clock" (set opener), "7 Shades Of Black" and "(Come On) Let's Go" compare well with the Pumpkins' best.
"Neverlost" is stylish (almost cocktail) yet haunting. The set closes with another strong acoustic ballad, "Pomp And Circumstances." As good as they are, thankfully, they are the exception, it's Rock that rules.
Any CD that kicks off with a dense, riff-powered track like "The Everlasting Gaze" is worth the trip. "MACHINA/The Machines Of God" is as hard charging and angst driven as ever. There are also several acoustic songs. The best ones have some rhythm to them ("Wound" and "With Every Light"). Corgan wrote all the songs and co-produced with Flood.
"Disarm" is one of the few truly hard-edged acoustic Rockers. Bells ring, guitars chime, Corgan sneers and whips the song to a hostile crescendo. "Cherub Rock" is a brilliant Grunger. They're both on "Siamese Dream" the Smashing Pumpkins best early album. Their debut "Gish" is also excellent.
In '95 the Pumpkins honed their sound to perfection with "Melon Collie and the Infinite Sadness." It became the top selling double set in history. Usually, anything that enjoys such massive commercial success is of a moment and quickly loses its appeal. "Melon Collie" is of its time but it's also transcends it. That sounds too metaphysical. Let's say it Rocks and always will. Put it in the time capsule because it'll last forever. The CDs are labeled "Dawn To Dusk" and "Twilight To Starlight." "Dawn To Dusk" has the ever popular "Tonight, Tonight" and the Pumpkins defining moment "Bullet With Butterfly Wings." "In spite of my rage, I'm still just a rat in a cage." Along with "Disarm," it's one of the group's greatest creations. "Twilight To Starlight" contains the hypnotic "1979" and the thrashing "We Only Come Out At Night."
Even the Smashing Pumpkins' weakest albums, "Pisces Iscariot," ("Pissant", "Landslide") and "Adore" ("Ava Adore") have enough to recommend them.