You didn’t think the Smashing Pumpkins broke up for real, did you? Today, to the surprise of absolutely no one, the Pumpkins are back with the oh-so-ironically-titled Zeitgeist (ironic because, when Pumpkin King Billy Corgan announced the band’s demise in 2000, he cited their inability to compete with “the Britneys of the world”, and thus effectively blamed the early millennial zeitgest for smashing the Pumpkins. Equally ironic, Britney Spears now has the same amount of hair as Billy Corgan. ANYWAY.) The band’s previous releases, which comprised the ultra-ambitious MACHINA project, were a mixed bag: some of the stuff was mind-blowingly good, yet too much of it was listless, overproduced wank (je t’accuse, “Crying Tree of Mercury”!). But the good stuff reminded you why you liked the Pumpkins in the first place, and so my hopes are reasonably high for Zeitgeist. In case you’re out of the loop, this is the band’s first album without James Iha; I guess having Corgan effectively blame him for the band’s original break-up had an effect on his ego. Iha is a talented guitarist, but (and I’m about to offend someone) he was never irreplaceable. He and the Female Bassist (take your pick between D’Arcy or Melissa Auf Der Maur) always seemed more important for their visual contribution to the band’s stage show; as evidence, look no further than the fact that Corgan recorded all the guitar and bass parts for their masterpiece, Siamese Dream. But Corgan and drummer Jimmy Chamberlin are irreplaceable. I’m obviously aware of Chamberlin’s dismissal in 1996 for being a junkhead (and for being there when the band’s touring keyboardist Jonathan Melvoin o.d.’d and died in New York City), but the bloated touring outfit that limped around the globe for the next three years was practically crying out for his unmistakable style (despite the presence of the great Kenny Aronoff behind the kit). After the Pumpkins broke up, Chamberlin and Corgan collaborated on Zwan, a band which started out promisingly enough but which eventually flamed out. After Corgan’s full-length solo debut, a Pumpkin revival was inevitable. I’m just surprised it took so long.
The verdict? I don’t know, because I still haven’t bought Zeitgeist. But I’m sure I’ll be getting it later today [ed. I’ve got it now], and I’ll let you know what I think. In the meantime, my dad and I are seeing Jonny Lang tonight. Is it okay if we stop referring to him as a child prodigy, by the way? The man’s twenty-six years old and married, although I’d personally argue he shed the child prodigy mantra when he started opening for the Rolling Stones. Speaking of which, Brad “Crash” Jorgensen and I saw Lang warm up for the Stones in Minneapolis in 1999; he upstaged the headliners, and both of us immediately went out and acquired his entire catalogue (which at the time comprised two albums, but which has since grown to five). Lang’s songs are alright, but they’re essentially window-dressing for his guitar-playing–which is utterly incredible, and which needs to be experienced live in order to be fully appreciated. Full report to follow.