Two years ago, The Smashing Pumpkins reunited. With the exception of bassist D’arcy Wretzky, most of Billy Corgan’s original Chicago rock band reunited, went on a stadium tour and released SHINY AND OH SO BRIGHT, VOL. 1 / LP: NO PAST. NO FUTURE. NO SUN. It pleased longtime fans but didn’t win over any newcomers, which the band hasn’t done on a major scale in a long time.
Shiny and Oh So Bright, Vol. 1
The legendary Rick Rubin produced the album and brought out the best instincts in Corgan, convincing him to go with his gut and not overthink everything. After a decade or so of underwhelming Pumpkins albums and band members coming and going, the new songs represented a newer, brighter future for the band. For most of the 21st Century, Corgan released what felt like pale imitations of the old Pumpkins. Many, many fans were left cold.
The New Album
Corgan and most of the original band, including Jimmy Chamberlain, James Iha, and Jeff Schroeder, are working on new songs that sound more forward-thinking than nostalgic.
According to Corgan, they’ve been recording the double album for over a year in Tennessee. Here’s what he told The Tennessean about the album:
When we got back together with James (Iha, founding guitarist), we went in with Rick Rubin and did eight songs. It was put out as a formal album, but I said at the time — and I did mean it — in my eyes, it wasn’t an album. We didn’t approach it like we’ve approached every other album we’d ever done, which is more like making a movie.
In many ways, this is the first real album (since the reunion) where we’ve hunkered down and made a classic, “Let’s throw it all at the wall and see what happens” type of Pumpkins record. I’ve been working on it for over a year. It currently is at 21 songs, and we’re going to release it as a double this year.
This is the first album since the album that came out in 2000, Machina, where me, James and Jimmy worked on something for a very long time. It’s got a greater conceptual base, and it’s probably a wider swath of music. The last one was kind of like, “Let’s just jump in, record some stuff real fast, and let it be what it is,” … so I’m excited about this, because we’re kind of back in the lane of taking a risk, and trying to bring something new to the table, as opposed to just aping what we’re known for.
Time to Get with the Times
Pumpkins fans definitely need something fresh to get excited about. The band’s last tour was a celebration of the past and a reunion between old members, but now that it’s done, it’s time to do something new and exciting. The band needs some recharging, especially since ticket sales weren’t stellar on their last tour.
The band added second dates in Los Angeles and their home city, Chicago, but very few shows of theirs were sold-out. Ticketmaster seat options were often a sea of blue available seats.
The Pumpkins were playing stadiums they just weren’t big enough to sell out like they used to. It doesn’t help that Corgan has been distancing fans over the years with less-than-stellar albums and head-scratching quotes. He usually finds himself in headlines not for his music but his comments, which is never a good sign or look for an artist. Maybe with a new double album, Corgan will give fans something new to get truly excited about.
A Fragmented Industry…What’s a Pumpkin to Do?
It’s such a different time for music than when the Pumpkins got together over 30 years. Their sound is no longer what’s popular and mainstream. Albums aren’t selling off shelves anymore. Music videos like “Tonight, Tonight” or “1979” aren’t on TV all the time. More often than not, albums aren’t sold but streamed.
So, where do the Pumpkins fit into today’s world? Well, maybe they don’t need to. At the end of the day, they’re the Smashing Pumpkins, so they’ll always have an audience, even if their record sales aren’t what they used to be. “Shiny and Oh So Bright” wasn’t exactly a hot seller, but more importantly, it was a solid return-to-form that showed the band maturing and trying their hand at new material. As long as they keep experimenting rather than retreating to what worked for them a long time ago, they’ll keep their fans happy and talking.
Is the New Album The Right Step in a New Decade?
The double album news is especially exciting when remembering the epic scale and sounds of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, a classic double album of its time that somehow remains timeless. From the sound of it, Corgan isn’t trying to recapture glory years but finally, grow up with his fanbase.
We’ve already heard what the Pumpkins sound like in the 90s, so why bother recreating what we already heard? It’s 2020. Time to move forward with the band and the culture, which it sounds like Corgan is doing. Maybe after he completes the double album he’ll finally release his +1,000 page autobiography in which, apparently, he witnesses a shape-shifter. True story, says Corgan.