Band Review: Smashing Pumpkins

Smashing Pumpkins released their first album, Gish, in 1991, but I first heard of the band in 1993 when I got a cassette copy of the Singles soundtrack for my eighteenth birthday. The band’s name was unusual enough at the time that it stood out to me when I saw the tracklist on the tape. When I listened to the tape, I decided that I liked the song “Drown,” but wished that the ending wasn’t quite so long.

A couple of months later, I was watching Headbanger’s Ball on MTV, and I saw the video for Smashing Pumpkins’ “Cherub Rock,” the lead-off single from the Siamese Dream album. I instantly recognized the band’s name from the Singles soundtrack, so I gave the song and video a chance. By the end of the video, I was definitely hooked on the song. The song that ultimately sold me on the band, though, was “Today,” the next single from Siamese Dream. During the spring of 1994, the third single, “Disarm,” actually charted on the top 40 pop charts. It was very different from the other songs I had heard from the band up to that point, and I knew that Smashing Pumpkins was a band I would need to continue keeping an ear out for. I remember the “Rocket” video getting airplay on MTV during the summer of 1994, but at the time, it wasn’t quite as memorable as the other songs I’d heard.

During the spring of 1995, I started hanging out with the guy who would eventually become my husband. He liked Smashing Pumpkins, and he started sharing Smashing Pumpkins material with me; this included songs from the Gish album, the non-singles from Siamese Dream, the b-sides, and Pisces Iscariot. Around the time we started dating, word came out that Smashing Pumpkins would be releasing the double album, Mellon Collie & The Infinite Sadness. I remember how excited my now-husband was when the “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” single and video were released; we both liked the song instantly. I remember going out to a music store with him and picking up the album on the release day, and I also remember going back to his dorm room and listening to it with him. Musically, the album was quite a progression from Siamese Dream, and there was quite a mixture of styles. My favorite songs from the album over the years have been: “Tonight, Tonight,” “Jellybelly,” “Zero,” “Bullet With Butterfly Wings,” “Love,” “Muzzle,” “Thirty-Three,” “1979,” “We Only Come Out At Night,” “Beautiful,” and “Farewell And Goodnight.” Right after we got married, The Aeroplane Flies High box set came out, which included all the singles from the album; most of the singles in the set included some extra tracks that weren’t on the original versions of the singles. We bought that when we came home from our honeymoon.

In 1997, the band released the song “The End Is The Beginning Is The End,” which was from the Batman & Robin soundtrack. This song ended up foreshadowing the direction the band went in for their 1998 album, Adore. Adore was definitely a more electronic-oriented album than previous efforts. Since my husband and I enjoy electronic music, we had a bit of an appreciation for many of the songs on the Adore album.

In 2000, Smashing Pumpkins released the album MACHINA/the Machines of God. While there were some decent songs on the album, it just wasn’t as strong of an album when compared to the other albums in the band’s catalogue. After this album came out, the band broke up. There was the download-only MACHINA II album released after this album, and my husband downloaded it. Unfortunately, this is something I don’t listen to very often. Not that it’s necessarily bad, but I have to be just in the right mood to listen to it. A greatest hits album was released in 2001, which included the new song “Untitled.” I really liked “Untitled,” and thought it was one of the best songs I’d heard from the band in several years.

Smashing Pumpkins disappeared again until it was announced that Billy Corgan and Jimmy Chamberlain had resurrected the band, and would be releasing a new album; Zeitgeist was released in 2007. “Doomsday Clock,” “That’s The Way (My Love Is),” “Tarantula,” “Starz,” and “(Come On) Let’s Go!” were the strongest tracks on the album. The American Gothic EP was released in 2008. The EP was a decent collection, but it’s not something I listen to very often. The band released the album, Teargarden by Kaleidyscope, in 2009. Unfortunately, I have not yet had the opportunity to listen to the material from this release.

In the end, I think the peak of Smashing Pumpkins’ career, both for popularity and quality of the music, happened during the 1990s. While the music from the past eight years hasn’t been bad, I just don’t think it quite stands up against the band’s material from the 1990s.

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