If you had told me in 1993 that I was gonna be disinterested in buying the sixth studio album by The Smashing Pumpkins, I would have laughed at you. But, as the Pumpkins prep the release tomorrow of their new album Zeitgeist, I have nothing but disdain for what the “band” is today. Reunited – sort of – by founding leader Billy Corgan after the dismal solo album he made two years ago, all signs indicate this new record is gonna blow. At their cultural and commercial heyday, I was among the band’s biggest fans. But now, with only Corgan and drummer Jimmy Chamberlain still in tow, the band is just a shell of itself. Somewhere along the line (right around their first swan song, 2000’s MACHINA) someone must’ve told Corgan that he needs to stop singing and start screaming.
Part of the beauty of early Smashing Pumpkins was in Corgan’s commitment to hushed melodies and epic craftsmanship. Now, as evidenced by the early singles such as “Tarantula,” Corgan is as whiny and as disorganized as ever. Producer Butch Vig helped bottle that intensity into two mesmerizing albums: Gish (1991) and Siamese Dream (1993). Corgan, reportedly always an egomaniac, must have thought he could handle his vision by himself. Playing all the instruments in the studio wasn’t enough, he had to become the lone visionary as well. And, as a result, the band has suffered. A lot. When Corgan announced that he was getting the band back together in 2005, the longtime fans (who had now become skeptics) knew better.
And, if this disappointed review from Pitchfork (based in the band’s hometown) is any indicator, Zeitgeist is precisely what we thought it would be. At least when Corgan made his lousy solo record, it was his own name he was ruining. Now, he’s finally soiled the moniker we loved so much in the 1990s. No thank you.