Sunday, June 20, 2010

Smashing Pumpkins

Since sometime in early April, I've been trying to get motivated to do a post about the night I saw the Smashing Pumpkins at the Patriot Center. And its increasingly looking like I just can't get it up to give them that much attention.

Now, listen: I'm not an out-an-out hater on the Pumpkins. They have the makings of at least one fantastic greatest hits album. But so do the Eagles. And Journey.
And I sure can't get my dick hard for those bands, either.

I should admit that my bad attitude about the Pumpkins comes largely from reading Jim DeRogatis' Milk It! Collected Musings on the Alternative Music Explosion of the '90s ( THAT guy is a hater!)

His hypothesis generally is that of the top rock acts of the '90s (the Pumpkins, Nine Inch Nails, Pearl Jam and Nirvana, give or take a few other bit players), the Pumpkins were essentially the most expendable.

I tend to agree with him, despite how much I like tracks like 1974, Zero, and especially Jellybelly --
all of which appeared on the terribly pretentiously-titled and difficult-to-listen-to "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness".

Think about it: Pearl Jam took Fugazi's mission and generally brought it to the masses. Sure, it was diluted by the time it got there, but that's the price. NIN momentarily brought industrial music out of the basement, where it had been simultaneously flourishing and suffocating for more than 20 years. And there's not much I could say about Nirvana that hasn't been said before, but let's keep in mind that their legacy includes the Foo Fighters.

But the Pumpkins? Their legacy increasingly seems to be that as long as you've got a rad sounding guitar, a great drummer, and the ability to write hooks, its perfectly fine to have a shitty voice, a patronizing display of teenage angst and a totally unlikeable attitude about your own level of talent.

Is that fair? Not entirely. Corgan's most whiny and faux-angsty output is on "Mellon Collie", and that's a concept album of sorts, about an isolated teenager - ergo all the 'tude on those songs. Still, Billy has never been shy about showcasing his massive ego or his ridiculous voice, regardless of his other undeniable talents.


This show was fine, actually. Nothing to
write home about, but it was good enough. Jimmy Chamberlain was back in the band, and the beautiful Mellisa Auf der Maur had replaced D'Arcy - and anything involving Ms. Auf der Maur is a good thing in my book.

(Someday I'll write about that time I locked eyes with her in the Red Room of the old Black Cat).

((Ah, wistful...))

As for the show, the details aren't exactly vivid. I recall an acoustic performance of "1974" at the end, as well as a moment during "Zero", when someone in the crowd inflated a five foot penis and started tossing it around the crowd. Billy and James shared a laugh, and for a moment it appeared that they liked one another.

And with that, I'm totally tapped out on the Smashing Pumpkins. I mean just...whatever. They were a fine band for the 90's, and I'll always respect Billy Corgan for getting an enjoyable album out of Courtney Love (the sometimes-overlooked "Celebrity Skin", which Corgan basically wrote for her).

Then again, every single time I hear a fucking terrible screamo band break into a pussified melodic vocal hook, I can't help but to hear Corgan's influence all over the place. Oh, sure, the chasm in talent between those emo dickbags and Corgan is obvious, but still -- that shit is all over you, Billy. That's the problem with being a "genius". Remember that the next time you tell a reporter about how you basically taught James and D'Arcy how to play their instruments.


So, that said, I *do* have a story about the Smashing Pumpkins.

I'm not exactly sure what the year was, but it was probably the Summer of 1990 or 1991. It was Fran the Man's birthday, and because we were so tremendously lame, we decided to make a rare trip into Washington, D.C. to go to the Hard Rock Cafe for dinner (which was at least slightly less uncool back then -- let's not forget that these establishments were all the rage at some point in the late 80's. Cool kids knew better, but we did not).

Anyway, we went out and had dorky fun.

When dinner was over, we proceeded straight to the Metro to go home, like the good little suburban kids that we were. After all, Washington was a little rougher back then, and you didn't want to be screwing around if you didn't know your way around.

As we approached the station, a homeless man hobbled up to us.

"Three bands, three bucks! Three bands, three bucks. 9:30 Club, baby!"

Fran the Man and I looked at one another.

"Where is it," I asked.

"9:30 Club! Right THERE, man!" he responded, excitedly waving his arm down the block.

"How much?"

"Three bands, three bucks!!" he responded, his voice taking on a decidedly exasperated tone.

Its hard for me to believe that I had so little adventure in me. We certainly had $6 between us. And we both knew all about the 9:30 Club, even though neither of us had even been in it: that was a punk rock club, and we were NOT punk rock kids. We were debate team kids.

"Who's playing," I asked, knowing full well that I wouldn't recognize the name.

"Man, its them Smashing Pumpkins! Girls EVERYWHERE! Man, you got three bucks...come ON!!!"

Fran the Man and I exchanged glances once more.

"That sounds gay," I told Fran the Man, and we stepped onto the Metro escalator, missing that opportunity forever.

But, you know, for years afterwords I told people that I went to that show, and that I saw the Pumpkins back when they were on the club circuit. Years later, Fran the Man would admit to me that he had done the same thing.

But, of course, we didn't.

Because I thought it would be "gay".

So there you have it - my life at 17: Dinner at rock and roll-themed chain restaurants + homophobic slurs = bad taste and arena rock.

Hooray for me.