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July 10, 2007

The Smashing Pumpkins: Zeitgeist

zeitgeist_sp.jpgBeing the angsty sort that I am, it's been somewhat disconcerting to come to the realization that my adolescence is no longer a recent memory. I've been doing my best to qualify and quantify whatever passage has occurred and is occurring and will occur - to grow up, at least a little bit - and so it's been rather confusing these past few months to suddenly see billboards and advetisements for a new Smashing Pumpkins album, to hear radio DJs say "new Pumpkins, coming up next," to see tour announcements and that pale bald head on magazine covers. It's like 1997 all over again. A decade and a few odd months have elapsed since a friend who is having a baby in a few weeks gave me Melon Collie And The Infinite Sadness on cassette, since Billy Corgan's melodramatic whine first gave definition to my equally hyperbolic sense of teenage discontent, this new record has coming along and thrown me into a bit of a developmental tailspin.

Which is to say: I've been listening to Zeitgeist for the past week, and am having trouble deciding whether it's any good, or if my ears are merely muffled by nostalgia. It's certainly a better record than Corgan's abysmal solo album a few years back. Some of the songs, like the opening number Doomsday Clock, sound like vintage Pumpkins and could fit right into an iTunes shuffle of older material. But if there's a problem with the album, that's exactly it: whatever attempts Corgan makes at contemporary relevance (case in point: the album cover) fall pretty flat, and I'm not sure if the record serves any greater than purpose than as a slipstream - an opportunity, for both Corgan and his audience, to make a desperate grab at something profound and effusive that's forever slipping further away.

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On a related note: I read Craig Thompson's graphic novel Blankets last night. My friend Tony gave it to me. He told me to read it one sitting and to be prepared for all that old bittersweet hurt to come rushing back. He wasn't lying. I had to put it down a few times, just to catch myself from falling.

Posted by David Lowery at July 10, 2007 6:03 AM


Couldn't agree more with your assessment of the new album. Melon Collie was the soundtrack of my life in '97, and I guess I hoped this new album would pick up where that one left off.

But it doesn't.

And then I saw the Pumpkins on that Live Earth concert the other night (without James and D'Arcy) and they simply sucked. Wolfe was right - you can't go home again.

Posted by: Filmbrain at July 11, 2007 8:19 AM

Funny. Melon Collie came out in '05. From what I recall, the Pumpkins were already seen as irrelevant by '07, certainly by '08.

Posted by: mutinyco at July 11, 2007 2:08 PM

Yeah, but I didn't get it until the fall of 1996. I went to see them play that December - the first concert I ever attended, too.

Posted by: Ghostboy at July 11, 2007 2:12 PM

I had a similar moment when I heard the remake of the Cranberries' Zombie on the radio recently. Not that I'm particularly fond of the song but I have an oddly distinct memory of some teammate belting the chorus out on the Jr. High football field during practice. I thought to myself isn't there some sort of unwritten rule that says you have to wait at least 10 years to remake a song. Then I realized that the song is well over 10 years old. It's as if that single insignificant memory lingered so that someday I would recall it and truly realize I am no longer young. And like a slow train coming getting older.

Posted by: Adam at July 12, 2007 2:45 PM

There's a cover of Zombie? Wow. No Need To Argue was actually the first album I ever bought. On tape. With money earned from household chores. I remember riding my bike to Blockbuster Music to get it. My taste still had years of development to go...

Posted by: Ghostboy at July 12, 2007 11:44 PM


You guys are going through what I went through in '97 when I realized The Joshua Tree was 10 years old. Now it's 20!

Yain't gettin' any younger!

Posted by: mutinyco at July 13, 2007 4:37 PM