Ch. #21 – “From Chicago, with Grunge”


As alluded to in last week’s entry I had more than one show lined up last week other than Lenny Kravitz‘s. The latter’s show was great and all, on and off downright amazing to give credits were credits are due. Watching his performance reaffirmed my view of what an baller of an artist he his. So I’m very happy I got to see him live finally.

…that said, to be real honest despite how psyched I was on seeing Lenny Kravitz perform I was possibly even slighter more excited to see the other band who was in town last week; Chicago’s fabled 90s Alt-Rock posse The Smashing Pumpkins.

Ah, the Smashing Pumpkins. Arguably one of the weirder and oddball of all of the Alt-Rock acts that rose to prominence in the 90s. But I mean that in a good way.

This group of seemingly misfits led by William “Billy” Patrick Corgan found each other in Chicago by the late 1980s and came out swinging with their Butch Vig produced debut album “Gish” in 1991, which would be followed by the now classic cuts “Siamese Dream” in 1993 and “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness” in 1995. Records that cemented their cult status and legacy in the music history books. At the very least for Alt-Rock junkies like myself.

The Pumpkins are often sonically lumped together with the many of the other famed Alt-Rock bands that rose up from Seattle at the same time period but as far as I’m concerned while there are many similarities between these bands there is something distinctively different going on as well with the Pumpkins. They share the foundation of heavy, distorted guitars playing aggressive power chords riffs and progressions with the other Grunge bands, their sound is mixed and intertwined with pop, progressive and shoegaze elements. The combination yielded a sound that is notably more elusive, dreamy and often bigger than many of the contemporaries.

Last year the band made a come back of sort with the tongue twister titled album “Shiny and Oh So Bright, Vol. 1 / LP: No Past. No Future. No Sun.” after close to 2 decades of being in a weird limbo, partly assembled, on-and-off status.

…I don’t even want to try to dabble in that can of worms. It’s complicated like you wouldn’t believe it.

Regrettably most of the blame for this has to be pointed towards the frontman Billy Corgan. Again, there is just too much weird and depressing stuff than I possible want to go through in this piece but if you wan to get yourself a picture of what I’m referring to do a quick query in your favorite web search engine of choice for “Billy Corgan crazy shit”.

So…yeah. To put it as courteous that I can I would say the Billy Corgan is a flawed, mad musical genies. One that highly fear that I due to principles have to turn my back on one day and stop listening to his music because of it.

But enough of the depressing divinations. When I was at their show at Gröna Lund and as I have listened to it leading up to and after the show I just want to think about the songs, themes and arrangements that made me a fan in the first place. The super heavy and cool guitar driven arrangements and the many songs that I identify as being about being a weird kid trying to make sense of and to find a place of your own in an even weirder world. Both something that I very much sympathizes with and can relate to.

Although I have been heavy on the nostalgia in this piece writing about The Smashing Pumpkins I leave you with a track of their latest album. The belter “Solara” sounds and feels to me like it could have been on an alternative timeline follow up album to “Mellon Collie” if Billy and the band didn’t turn so hard to Electronica and Synthesizers as they did on “Adore“. Therefore I guess the tune in context of The Smashing Pumpkins feel so cool and fresh yet so familiar to me. And if you have never or barely ever heard the band before you are in for a ride regardless of the context; I promise you that.

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