Billy Corgan and his Smashing Pumpkins are back from the brink but always on the edge, Getintothis’ Joseph Viney finds the alt-rock pioneers on the cusp of a real resurgence.
He may have his (many) detractors, but like it or not, Billy Corgan is perhaps the last remaining part of the early to mid-90s alt-rock/grunge explosion who is doing what he wants, when he wants.
Having faced a good deal of derision for resurrecting the Smashing Pumpkins (SP) in 2005 (sans fellow founder members James Iha and D’arcy Wretzky), Corgan has ploughed on, reshaped the group and forcibly dragged them in an exciting and fresh direction.
Their 2012 LP Oceania was multi-layered and engaging; a world away from 2007’s poorly-produced and mainly disappointing Zeitgeist.
Proving that there is indeed no time like the present, set openers Quasar and Panopticon, the same one-two punch from Oceania, are delivered with real panache.
Both tunes inhabit a world of prog, power and signal a line-up that has found their feet in double quick time.
Corgan, always regarded as a tough taskmaster (if early tales from the studio are to be believed), shows no sign of mellowing in his later years.
A furious rendition of the spiteful and malevolent X.Y.U. sounds just as frightening as it did in 1995, while the needling hook of Rocket is enough to send fans back in time to bedrooms full of posters and a head ridden with angst.
The reason that SP stood apart from their contemporaries lay in their versatility and willingness to mix things up. As such, there was a little something for everyone.
The big hitters, the songs that got them to this place in the first instance like Zero, Tonight Tonight, Today and Bullet With Butterfly Wings, pleased the casuals and hardcore alike.
Others such as The Imploding Voice, Blank Page and Thirty-Three only confirmed that, like all the great bands, SP’s albums were a lot more than just singles and filler.
Some fans may never accept the new line-up totally, but it’s nights like these that show their worth and…whisper it…potential longevity.
Nicole Fiorentino (bass), maintaining the SP tradition of female four-stringers, is a solid musician and her contributions to the creation of Oceania were more than evident. Her take on Ava Adore’s chugging riff had the building shaking.
Jeff Schroeder (guitar) is something of a wizard (even after dropping that godawful cape he used to wear) and Mike Byrne (drums), perhaps given the toughest act to follow, is doing much to prove he can come to match Jimmy Chamberlain pound-for-pound, beat-for-beat.
Corgan’s dry wit has tended to land him in hot water with critics and cynics, and a smattering of faintly surprising but fun covers (Space Oddity, All Along The Watchtower, Immigrant Song) is either a sign of playfulness and/or a giant ‘fuck you’ to somebody, somewhere. It’s hard to tell.
Getintothis has no shame in admitting that the night’s final song, 1979, brought us close to a little teary-eyed.
The song, a paean to the unpredictability of an ennui-ridden, misspent youth, harks back to lazy days when the world seemed a bigger place. Call it over-emotional, call it exaggeration, call it whatever the hell you want; it speaks to volumes to the collective and the individual concurrently. How about that for great song writing?
“We don’t even care, as restless as we are…” sings Corgan. Even after all this time, nothing ever truly changes.
Further reading on Getintothis:
The Royal Court: Musical magic relived at Liverpool’s rock and roll theatre (including Smashing Pumpkins’ ill-fated show)
Pearl Jam: Manchester Evening News Arena, Manchester
Top 10: Neil Young
Mudhoney, Meat Puppets, METZ: Academy, Manchester