You know me: I love sweeping declarations. For instance, three years ago I wrote the following:
Jimmy Chamberlin has quit the Smashing Pumpkins, and has thus effectively ended any lingering interest I had in what is now officially Billy Corgan’s solo project. Chamberlin wasn’t fired, like he was back in 1996, but his terse, two-sentence termination notice suggests the seemingly indestructible bond between the drummer and his frontman might’ve finally been severed. Corgan will carry on, but without Chamberlin the Band Formerly Known as the Smashing Pumpkins have lost their soul.
And at the time, I meant it. After all, Chamberlin’s one of my favourite musicians; his indelible drumming was a vital component to the best Pumpkins records, and his unceremonious departure didn’t sit well with me at all. But then a funny thing happened: Billy Corgan and his new-look Smashing Pumpkins released a titanic new album called Oceania. The subsequent tour, which begins with a full performance of Oceania and ends with an hour of hits (along with a cover of “Space Oddity”), started getting stellar notices (like this one, from the Calgary Herald‘s Mike Bell, about the show I skipped earlier in the month. Bell isn’t given to raves, by the way.) And when Saj started talking about seeing the Pumpkins in Toronto tomorrow night, I listened–sweeping declarations made three years ago be damned.
And so we’re going, along with another Steve, to see if Billy’s still got it. Again, Oceania is good; it’s arguably the best Pumpkins’ album since at least 1998’s Adore, although that might be damning it with faint praise (I will defend MACHINA/the machines of God till I’m blue in the face, but its high points never scale the same peaks of, say, Oceania‘s “Pale Horse”). Frankly, I’m not sure what to expect tomorrow. I think I want to enjoy myself; I certainly hope I don’t spend the entire night with my arms folded across my chest and wondering why Mike Byrne can’t play more like Jimmy Chamberlin (although it’s possible I’ll do exactly that). I have a long and tangled history with the Smashing Pumpkins. That doesn’t make me unique–Corgan’s nothing if not a divisive force–and I’m not sure it’s something I’ll be able to fully reconcile during a two-hour concert…so I’ll simply settle for enjoying myself and worrying about the rest later on. That’s good enough for now.