We may never hear a grand, new Smashing Pumpkins song ever again.
While Billy Corgan indulges in niche brick & mortar entrepreneurship (he owns Madame Zuzu’s Tea Shop), dabbles with vinyl-only DJing and modular synthesis performances (still at the aforementioned tea shop that he owns), and joins TNA Wrestling, the question remains on every Smashing Pumpkins and alternative rock fan: When will the next Siamese Dream come out? When will the next Mellon Collie be produced?
The short answer to those questions: Never. The longer one: It depends.
If you take the entire Pumpkins body of work and look at each album individually, devoid of cultural context, I think you’d realise that generally there were some really good raw ones (Gish, Pisces Iscariot, Machina), some folksy experimental ones (Teargarden, Adore), and a bunch of decent albums (Oceania, Monuments To An Elegy, Zeitgeist). All pretty good stuff by normal rock band standards.
But The Smashing Pumpkins were anything but normal and standard, thanks in no small part to the two albums I mentioned at the beginning of this post. The impact of Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness was so huge, and for the latter the vision so wide and deep, that it would haunt Billy Corgan forever. They are the ghosts he would spend the rest of his career trying to exorcise.
It’s easy to think that Siamese Dream and MCIS are significant because these came out when you and I were teenagers, but it really goes beyond that: Make a 13-year-old listen to Tonight Tonight, and you wouldn’t blame him or her for losing interest and checking Facebook before you hear Billy sing “Time…”
You can’t divorce music from the context that it was written in. Put simply, when the next Smashing Pumpkins album comes out, its success will be relative to what you think of an album’s “success” to be: If your measure is that it has a couple of songs you can sing along, then that’s easy. But if you’re looking at a pairing of critical and commercial success, you’re better hedging your bets somewhere else.
It’s not that Billy Corgan suddenly decided that he wouldn’t put loud guitars (which older SP fans frequently allude to as “classic” SP) or that his choice of revolving bandmates diluted his artistic sensibilities, it’s just that the world has moved past him and The Smashing Pumpkins, and in doing so he reacts by revelling in his indulgences. To get a sampling of that, check out this 8-hour Siddharta live performance reading set to live synth improvisation.
Let me set things straight: The brilliance never left him. Being Beige from Monuments To An Elegy is a great example of the breadth of Billy’s songwriting genius, up there with Stand Inside Your Love from Machina and even Cherub Rock from Siamese Dream, but it falls on deaf ears: A generation of music fans who didn’t grow up on the Pumpkins and could care less, and a fanbase that pines for the good ol’ days. Yes, I’m talking about you and me here – we’re the ones that have moved on from him, sadly.
It’s not so much that Billy Corgan can’t write a good tune anymore, it’s just that he doesn’t have as great a hold on you and me anymore, or anyone else for that matter. It’s also not his fault – an artist’s star will fade, but an artist will remain an artist for as long as she/he creates. The crux is that the new work just doesn’t speak as clearly to his generation as it used to, and is absolutely silent on anyone under the age of 20.
As it stands, The Smashing Pumpkins may still be around, but they’re kind of like Latin: It’s there, but no one really speaks it. A dead language isn’t entirely a bad thing, though: You can study and enjoy it in its non-changing entirety. However, it simply exists in a vacuum.
Agree or disagree? Is Billy’s greatest work forthcoming? I’d love to hear your thoughts, share them below