75 percent of the original Smashing Pumpkins get back together for a short, sharp new studio album
It’s the rare band that can withstand a break-up and then reform and forget its old animosities.
Strangely enough then, in the case of Smashing Pumpkins and its mercurial mastermind Billy Corgan, the prospects for continuing cooperative efforts seem secure for now, but uncertain as far as the future is concerned. Likely disappointed with the slow pace of his solo endeavors and the practically stillborn status of his post-Pumpkins band Zwan, he apparently made it clear to former bandmates Jimmy Chamberlin, James Iha and D’Arcy Wretzky that he hoped they might reconvene. For reasons yet unexplained, Wretzky was booted from the band practically from the get go, leading Corgan to recruit his former touring bassist Jack Bates in her stead. Not surprisingly, Chamberlin and Iha were all too willing to stay the course, sensing a far better payoff with the Pumpkins than their solo sojourns had been offering.
Other bands have followed the same break up/make up routine over the years — the Eagles, the Who, Van Halen, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, and the (former Grateful) Dead in particular, but aside from the obvious benefit that comes with raking in the riches tossed their way by eager (read: nostalgic) former fans, the artistic results are clearly negated. The Pixies, the Police, Kiss, Blondie, New Kids on the Block, and the Backstreet Boys also buried the proverbial hatchet at one time or another and reunited, but in most of cases, it was simply for the sake of a tour and the commercial rewards that were certain to follow.
Of all those bands, the Eagles seemed to reap the biggest payday, mainly through continued touring and, to a lesser extent, a post-reunion album. Yet it’s clear from their current stage show that they aren’t intent on breaking any new ground, but rather in retracing former glories. The same could be said of the Who, who have declined to release any new music in the past decade other than a couple of tracks added to greatest hits collections and the effort put into As Look As I Have You, released under the aegis of Roger Daltrey but featuring Pete Townshend in steady support.
That said, we should at least credit Corgan and company for attempting to affirm their efforts by immediately releasing a new LP even before setting out on tour. Given the effusive nature of the title, Shiny and Oh So Bright– Vol. 1– No Past, No Future, No Sun certainly offers the impression that this is simply the first of several endeavors to come, and that alone makes the optimism obvious. Still, the fact that the album is only eight songs long undercuts that assumption and makes one wonder if that was all they were able to manage.
Happily though, despite its brevity, the material is uniformly excellent and well up to the band’s seminal standards. “Knights of Malta,” “Silvery Sometimes (Ghosts)” and “Travels” recall the early Pumpkins triumphs “Tonight Tonight” and “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” with the sonic splendor that also graced albums like Adore, Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. That’s no small feat, indeed.
Ultimately, it seems that whatever differences the musicians had between them, they resolved them to the point where they could pull together and make a record that might be considered among their best. Who knows how long the reunion will last, but in the interim, fans have something to celebrate.
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