Someone’s fucking with me. I’ve just been sent the download codes for the deluxe editions of the first two Smashing Pumpkins albums, Gish (1991) and the Grammy Award-nominated Siamese Dream (1993), for review.
I am not going to play into this game. I never willingly listened to them at the time, and I see no reason to start now. A few months after I moved to Brisbane one of my new ‘friends’ invited me along to a porch party, and thought it’d be a laugh to put on a Smashing Pumpkins album without telling me who it was. I sat there as my new Australian friends swigged ostentatiously from beer and whiskey bottles, as this godawful tuneless dirge-like miasma of wailing, formless guitar solos, tepid sludge rock and ridiculously whiny vocals played out in the background. “So this is what they like in Brisbane,” I thought to myself. “Fuck.”
At the end of side one, it was revealed who the band was. I remember thinking, that really explained a lot of things … all this formless, wailing, whiny sludgy, post-grunge tuneless miasma of pomposity and shit sound that I’d been hearing at festivals over the past 15 years, it had to have its roots in something. And it did! The fucking Smashing Pumpkins.
Me and my ‘friend’, we are no longer friends. There’s only so far you can parade your own personal shit Jesus.
Pitchfork reckons Gish is worth a solid motherfucker of 8.3. That sounds about right. For a website of taste-maker critics completely bereft of any credibility or taste.
After I reviewed a Smashing Pumpkins appearance at Reading Festival 1991, Billy Corgan informed a fellow Melody Maker critic that he’d written ‘Rocket’ from the dreadfully overwrought Siamese Dream about me. The initial review was innocuous: something about how the Pumps weren’t particularly good, or feminine, or soulful, or honest, or any of those things Bill was so laughably claiming for himself. I stated my truth boldly, without rancour. In response, he told the journalist that he’d been moved to write the song after figuring he would rather take a rocket ship away from this earth, never to see anyone again, rather than spend five minutes in my company.
I have no idea if he was joking. It’s possible, although even his most ardent fans had to admit that humour isn’t exactly Bill’s strong point. Bill always was too pathologically ambitious and always did feel his music far too important to waste time on such trivial, lesser emotions.
If Corgan was joking when he made that comment about ‘Rocket’, he regretted it a few years afterwards when I wrote an ‘answer’ live review of a Pumpkins show at Chicago’s Metro club in 1993. The article started by drawing a line in the sand between what I perceived as soulful music (Nirvana) and the fakers (Soul Asylum, Porno For Pyros, Smashing Pumpkins). It continued by making reference to Billy’s dreadful over-expressive, chest-clutching falsetto and went on to accuse the band of being a calculated, sordid amalgam of every saleable moment in rock from the last 15 years (ELO, Warrant, Jane’s Addiction, Soundgarden). The final paragraph was summed it up:
“Someone recently made a remark to the effect that God is cruel, and it’s just not right that all those perfectly poised Goths like Bauhaus’ Peter Murphy and David Sylvian should have no talent while fat chumps like Cocteau Twins’ Robin Guthrie have the magic. It’s perfectly fair! Billy Corgan is a media slut, a corporate whore in the lowest, most pitifully sycophantic way. He doesn’t have a trace of originality, of poetry, of soul inside of him. He is all smugness, all knowing steals and money-grabbing finesse. He is an irritation, a minor one, but one which grows with each passing sales figure.”
The day the article appeared, his press agent called up and cancelled Melody Maker’s forthcoming trip to the States for a cover feature. On the UK dates that followed, Bill dressed up in a clown suit for the encore, in riposte to my calling him a “clown”.
“I’m a faker, I’m a media whore, I’m a complete phoney!” he raged from on stage during the month of September 1993. “I just hope all of you can make up your own minds.”
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