The rocky horror fracture show
You want rock that’s wrecked? A band with depth as well as volume? A sound that’s part thrills, part chills? You, and Craig McLean, want Smashing Pumpkins.
The horror. the horror. Gruelling stuff. this post- traumatic stress disorder. Shell-shocked from shock- therapy. you listen to this Siamese Dream album and hear cleansing. purging. scouring angst reach overload. Trauma. not triumph. That is the fount of inspiration for this hardcore uproar. the distinction that marks out Smashing Pumpkins as more. millions more. than Just Another Yank Rock band given kudos and kredit by dint of the loudness. jaggedness oftheir guitars. You can hear it in the vocals. all sibilant whispers and pn'mal screams. Smashing Pumpkins feel. Emote. Let it bleed. not just burst.
‘I just come from the Velvet Underground school of things.‘ reckons the Pumpkins’ mainman Billy Corgan. ‘whereas a lot of the Seattle bands come from the Stooges school. They‘re more rooted in a punk ethic and my ethic I would call a little more — I hate to say it — any or aesthetic.‘
Billy said that in The List eighteen months ago as he and his band were about to play their ﬁrst major UK tour. Things had gone slowly. but with measured progress, for the Chicago band. Sub Pop had released their debut single. ‘Tn'stessa‘l‘La Dolly Vita‘ in early l99l. Caroline. a US-based Virgin subsidiary. released their debut album. Gish. in June 199]. with little fanfare. save for their own. self-generated efforts. ‘The name may be a vegetable but the sound is 100 per cent meat!‘ frothed the press release. “Elements of Velvet Underground. Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin surface. it‘s their own inventive aural assault that‘s caused their live shows to be packed to the rafters with punters and A&R types.‘ it wittered. but wittered truthfully. By the end of the year UK-based Virgin subsidiary Hut had picked up on the album as a hype hubbub bubbled. Gish was re- issued and Smashing Pumpkins exploded.
second album, Siamese Dream. with hot potato producer Butch Vig. was fraught. Least of their worries. very probably. was the notion that Smashing Pumpkins were set to top and topple Nirvana from their perch atop . . . the world. As ifthat mattered. More importantly. Billy. who we already know is
26 The List lO—23 September I993
And have continued to explode. The making of their.
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any and aesthetic and very probably thinks too much. had ructions with his own band as he 'ZCCthd internally and took it out externally. Messed-up childhood. and all that. But then fuck-ups make great music. From the wreckage of indolcnce. re-hab. run- ins and freak-outs came Siamese Dream. And Billy Corgan‘s right: this is no heads-down. straight-ahead. punk rock Wham-ham. That energy is there — here the crunch of ‘Cherub Rock‘ or the howl of ‘l-lummcr‘ or the desperate epicness of ‘Today‘ — but it comes underpinned by scarring. searing sound-offs from the psyche.
Hype? Next Nirvana? A group permanently on the verge of collapse? World domination? And? Your point is? Guitarist James lha says. ‘I don‘t really care‘ and weathers the storm.
‘l‘mjust trying to make it through it. This whole publicity machine‘s been created. both with and without our doing. Being on a major label you get created because there‘s so much corporate bullshit that goes on. But they haven‘t fucked with us at all. they haven‘t pressured us at all. they haven‘t done anything as far as artistic anything. . .
‘All four of us have gone through a lot. being in music for 24 hours . . . ah. not 24 hours. whatever the fuck it is . . . being in a band for that long. and being on tour as long as we were. doing all the things that a
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band touted as the Next Big Thing have to do. Sure. ; there's a certain amount of cynicism that comes along with going through the music industry. Music‘s! great. but the business sucks. It‘s an age-old thing that bands pretend there is no business. and they put some stupid image across. I mean. we‘re the band who we are. and there's an image self-concsciously created by us. . .‘
Self-conscious or not. image is always part imagined anyway. Doesn‘t matter. Smashing Pumpkins are rock of intense solemnin and liberational explosiveness. dark drama and inate grace. But even that sounds like blathering bullshit. Tell it straight Billy. ‘People who listen to heavy metal are sick of the poodle hair.‘ he said eighteen months ago as the hype hubbub bubbled. ‘and they‘ve started turning to other bands because the things they like about rock can exist in alternative music without all the bullshit. It‘s almost like a simpliﬁcation. just going back to the basics of energy.‘
Eighteen months and one album later. the energy comes focussed and Smashing Pumpkins go global. Stand clear.
Smashing Pumpkins play Barmwlands. Glasgow on September I 8. Thanks to Jan Ewing.
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