I’ve been thinking about the Smashing Pumpkins lately, a band I liked a lot but haven’t listened to recently, and then on the subway tonight in the novel I’m reading (Tao Lin’s Taipei) he mentioned the Pumpkins. (He mentions lots of bands. I ended up with Against Me! last night because I looked up the Ataris, another band mentioned in the novel, and they play that amped up guitar rock that turns Green Day into prog giants. They were wanting. You can Youtube them if you want.)
Smashing Pumpkins were pretty universally hated back in the day, the grubbingest of grungers is the way the story goes. But I liked their music back then, especially Siamese Dream (which this cut is from) and the epically grandiose and asinine (and unspellable) Melon Collie and the Something or Other in a Village of Dingoes. But despite the title there is some powerful rock on that one, too, which maybe we’ll get to another day.
I would say that their songs are built on powerful mid-rhythm parts, static melodies that noodle all over the same place, and guitars that careen from notely to powerhouse (and that’s where most of the dynamics come from). The other distinguishing feature is a distinctive distortion that almost sounds like the tape is being slowed and released and slowed.
I think it’s to their credit that Steve Albini compared them to REO Speedwagon and Bob Mould called them the grunge Monkees (Husker Du had a similar constant distortion field effect going on come to think of it), but you may disagree (with me and agree with them). But Smashing Pumpkins were way popular when this rock style, the last legitimate rock style that was popular, was popular, were not posers (but may have been ambitious assholes), but I’m not sure I see the crime in any of that. But feel free.