Photos (L-R): Stefan M. Prager/Redferns via Getty Images, Paul Natkin/Getty Images, Paul Elledge
Songbook: A Guide To The Smashing Pumpkins In Three Eras, From 'Gish' To 'Atum'
From their wall-of-guitars early years to their hyper-eclectic commercial heyday to their 21st-century rebirth, here's a rundown of the Smashing Pumpkins' discography.
At their best, the Smashing Pumpkins represent a captivating dichotomy of tranquil and thunderous, delicate and pulverizing. Step into Siamese Dream cold and see if you don't agree.
From the volcanic intro to "Cherub Rock" onward, the Pumpkins' performances are ferocity incarnate: Billy Corgan's overwhelming bramble of overdubbed, Big Muffed guitars, Jimmy Chamberlin's jazz-like flow undergirding it all. But while Corgan screams, he also cooes. Yes, the music flirts with brutal metal, as it does on "Quiet" and "Geek U.S.A." But it closes with "Luna," the polar opposite — a gossamer ballad. In highlights like "Soma" and "Mayonaise," both these streams of feeling run concurrently.
Try to find another record with these simultaneous qualities, dialed up to 10. (Corgan's direct inspiration, My Bloody Valentine's Loveless, is the exception that proves the rule.)
From there, investigate the two-time GRAMMY winners' entire catalog; this duality is everywhere. It's all over their 1991 debut, Gish — and reached a peak of extremity in 1995's Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, where whimsical baubles like "Lily" and "Cupid de Locke" sit next to hair-on-fire death-metal meltdowns like "Tales of a Scorched Earth" and "X.Y.U."
A litany of beefs, breakups and make-ups haven't compromised that essential core. Their 2023 conceptual triple album, Atum: A Rock Opera in Three Parts, by the mostly reunited original lineup — bassist D'arcy Wretzky didn't return — is just as clear a window into Corgan's dark-and-light psyche as any. The rawk is there, as on singles "Beguiled" and "Empires," but so is an innocent air of sci-fi fantasia.
Pull up any interview with Corgan, and it will be many, many things: tempestuous, braggadocious, humble, vengeful, funny, conciliatory. After all these decades, it's impossible to truly get a read on the guy — other than that his mind is a freight train. And by the sound of the epic, ambitious, narrative-freighted Atum, that train isn't slowing down anytime soon.
With all that in mind, here's a quick trip through the Pumpkins' singular catalog, divided into three epochs.
The Original Run (1988-2000)
Five years after the Smashing Pumpkins disbanded, Corgan fired a missile that's almost jarringly revealing.
"I was into Black Sabbath and it just wasn't cool, but I didn't give a s—," he seethed to Pitchfork in 2005, while promoting his debut solo album, TheFutureEmbrace. "My band was going to sound like Black Sabbath because I f—ing wanted it to and I didn't give a s— what some idiot f— thought."
As quaint as it seems now, it was gauche in early-'90s alternative circles to bear a classic rock influence: punkness was the platonic ideal. To Corgan, a tormented and talented child who grew up to assume an alt-rock platform, this was a call to arms.
Vibey and paisley-patterned, Gish was a contrarian move, seamlessly blending his beloved Sabbath with goth, shoegaze, dream pop, and other disparate influences.
Even looking at a photo of them at the time — Corgan looking like a Boston roadie; workaday, mulleted Chamberlin; boy and girl next door James Iha and Wretzky — it's clear they arrived in this sphere like space invaders.
Any number of Gish tunes, from "Siva" to "Rhinoceros" to "Tristessa," remain Pumpkins classics, but the album arguably served as a ramp-up to Siamese Dream — one of the all-time "Guy loses his mind in the studio under the guise of a band" classics.
The jury's still out on how much, or even if, Iha and Wretzky even appeared on it. The interpersonal drama behind the scenes has been public knowledge for decades.
"Cherub Rock" is that infamous Sabbath quote turned into a raging anthem; when Corgan screams "Let me out!", he means the fetters of hipsterdom. Watch Corgan when they debuted the song on "Saturday Night Live" in 1993; each crashing chord at the end is a hammer striking down his enemies, and at song's end, he throws up devil horns for good measure.
The eggshell-fragile hit single "Today" is mostly remembered for the video with the ice cream truck, which belies that it's about suicidal ideation. "Mayonaise," a heavy, windswept ballad co-written with Iha, is a thing of uncanny beauty.
Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness represents the culmination of Corgan's classic rock dreams, at least until Atum. It's their Wall, their Sandanista!, their White Album. (Indeed, it ends with a song called "Farewell and Goodnight.")
And on top of an already impressive 28 songs, it spawned an entire boxed set of outtakes — The Aeroplane Flies High — that are just as good as the album.
As for the double album proper, "Tonight, Tonight" conjures a strain of longing and awe that's oddly specific to the Pumpkins; the magnificent video cemented it as an all-timer. The whimsical title of "Jellybelly" belies that it's one of the heaviest metal songs they ever recorded. Corgan's paint-peeling scream at the climax of the already over-the-top "Bullet With Butterfly Wings" is unforgettable.
Crucially, Mellon Collie's epic feel is due to far more than the sheer length of the album: in "Here is No Why," when Corgan proclaims "May the king of gloom/ Be forever/ Doomed!", and Chamberlin answers him with a galactic snare fill, the effect is of your body lifting a few inches in the air.
The new-wavy side of Planet Pumpkin came to the forefront with "1979," their most well-known song by some margin. But as rightly adored as that hit single and its video are, it's an outlier. At their mid-'90s commercial peak, the Smashing Pumpkins were seemingly capable of anything, and Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness put all their cards on the table.
In the pantheon of great "everything's crumbling" records, 1998's muted, gothy Adore deserves a seat at the table. Corgan was clearly grappling with the loss of his mother, who died in 1996: the piano ballad "For Martha" is named for her. The skulking industrial-pop single "Ava Adore" represents Corgan at his most Gary Numan-eque.
Other highlights — "Perfect," "The Tale of Dusty and Pistol Pete," "Behold! The Night Mare" — capture a particular rapprochement between gloominess and pop appeal that Corgan never repeated. He would later call the experience of making Adore "one of the most painful experiences of my life."
The still-underrated Machina/The Machines of God brought the Pumpkins' original run to a halt. Chamberlin was back, but Wretzky had been replaced by Melissa Der Auf Maur. Among some critics, the pushed-to-the-red production did Machina no favors.
Machina continues a somewhat opaque sci-fi tale that began with Mellon Collie and culminates with Atum. While strange-yet-tantalizing concoctions like "The Crying Tree of Mercury" might be for Pumpkins diehards rather than neophytes, Machina contains one of the greatest songs Corgan ever wrote: "Stand Inside Your Love." If you're wired a certain way, this arena-rocking monument to longing and devotion might make your heart leap into your throat.
A scattered sequel, Machina II/The Friends and Enemies of Modern Music, was freighted with legal issues. Released as three EPs for free on the Internet, it's an essential addendum, with terrific deep cuts like "Home" and Iha's "Go."
As with The Aeroplane Flies High and their phenomenal 1994 outtakes and B-sides collection, Pisces Iscariot, which contains a borderline definitive version of Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide," Machina II is an essential companion piece to the Book of Billy.
The Transitional Years (2007-2016)
After Corgan's short-lived yet beloved supergroup Zwan made one sunny album and flamed out, the Smashing Pumpkins reunited in the mid-2000s. Kind of. It was just Corgan and Chamberlin, with guitarist Jeff Schroeder and bassist Ginger Pooley filling them out.
The reconstituted band's first offering was 2007's Zeitgeist — the band's heaviest album by some margin, and one that fixated on a topic that the band had never broached before: U.S. politics. (Underlined by an almost 10-minute-long think called "United States.")
Despite a so-so critical reputation, Zeitgeist has aged well, especially given the current 2000s boom — despite the fact it's disappeared from streaming. "Tarantula" was and is a satisfying comeback single, and idea-rich tunes like "7 Shades of Black" and "Neverlost" are further proof that Corgan's songwriting chops remained in fine form during the break. They followed Zeitgeist with an acoustic EP, American Gothic, that same year.
It's no criticism of the Pumpkins to say that what happened next is all over the place. Partly because the next chapter resulted in a slew of great songs.
Chamberlin then exited, leaving Corgan as the sole original Pumpkin. After hiring Mike Byrne as Chamberlin's replacement, Corgan fired up another one of his hallucinogenically ambitious conceptual projects: Teargarden by Kaleidyscope, Conceived as a 44-song project themed around the tarot, the songs would be rolled out via an unconventional method: one by one, as he recorded them, in real time. While Teargarden didn't make it to completion, some of the tunes rank among Corgan's prettiest, like "Tom Tom" and "Spangled."
2012's Oceania hinted at the band continuing in a new form — Corgan, Schroeder and Byrne, filled out with bassist Nicole Fiorentino. But it didn't last. Still, approach this fan favorite not for the drama, but for the tunes, like the barreling "Panopticon," which recaptures that Siamese Dream fire, and the quiet-to-loud banger "The Celestials."
Corgan consolidated for 2014's Monuments to an Elegy, where the lineup is the grand total of himself, Schroeder and Mötley Crüe's Tommy Lee. Pop-radio-pointed singles have looked good on Corgan from the jump; for an obscure one, check out their strummy, end-credits farewell single "Untitled." "Being Beige" is another jewel in that crown.
While this period may have reflected a sense of uncertainty, it turned out to be temporary: in 2018, three original Pumpkins got back together — for real this time.
A New Era (2018-Present)
Despite having more original members today than at any point in nearly two decades, the Smashing Pumpkins have refused to make a reheated Siamese Dream. Rather, the band's recent creative moves have been quixotic and unpredictable in the most Pumpkinesque way.
It started in 2018 with a mouthful of a title: Shiny and Oh So Bright, Vol. 1 / LP: No Past. No Future. No Sun., a spirited Rick Rubin-produced mini-album to gas up fans for the reunion tour.
If you thought we were getting a Vol. 2, though, think again: what came next was Cyr, a double album of austere synth-pop with almost zero deviation. That aesthetic blossomed into 2023's Atum: A Rock Opera in Three Parts, where Corgan and company deftly incorporate those analog synths into their old guitar-heavy template — updated with modern rock production.
Out of the entire set of '90s-rock royalty, the Smashing Pumpkins could be the most flat-out entertaining and transportive. A writer once summed up Corgan's two greatest strengths as a musician: "symphonic grandeur and needling intimacy." Partly thanks to Corgan's mastery in both departments, there was nobody like them when they arrived, and there will never be again. Believe in them, as they believe in you.
Photo: Tim Saccenti
Code Orange's 'The Above': The Metalcore Heroes On Their Creatively Generous New Album
Code Orange threw red meat to the listening public with "Out For Blood," ahead of a tour with Korn. After that zig, a zag: released on Sept. 29, 'The Above' is their most eclectic and well-rounded work yet.
Check his list of credits: generally, Corgan's behind the scenes as a co-writer. When he has appeared as a vocalist or guitarist, it's generally been for veterans — like Scorpions, New Order or Hole — or then-upstarts of modern rock, like Breaking Benjamin.
But there he is, in the delicate bridge of Code Orange's bludgeoning single "Take Shape." "Spread your wings/ Show us who you are," he sings over fingerpicked acoustic guitar, in his inimitable keen. "Spread your wings/ You'll go far."
Corgan's guest appearance has resonance far beyond name recognition, or '90s cred during the '90s wave. Because the Smashing Pumpkins were probably the most emotionally and artistically generous band of that decade.
Back then, Corgan and company gave you everything they were. Emotionally and materially, "withholding" wasn't in their DNA. And the same goes for Code Orange, who hold the odd distinction of being punk veterans by their early thirties.
Over the course of five albums, vocalist Jami Morgan, guitarists Reba Meyers and Dominic Landolina, bassist Joe Goldman, keyboardist Eric "Shade" Balderose, and drummer Max Portnoy have metamorphosed from basement hardcore to a hydra of heavy styles.
Think Pumpkins meets A Perfect Circle, with a helping of metalcore, and you're somewhere in their vicinity. For their efforts, they've garnered two GRAMMY nominations.
Across their development, Code Orange have exemplified this Pumpkinesque spirit of generosity. Their new album, The Above, out Sept. 29, is teeming and bountiful — both emotionally unsparing and all over the map stylistically.
One minute, they're mellow and openhearted, as on "Mirror." The next, they're nightmarishly twisted and alien, as on "A Drone Opting Out of the Hive." And many songs, from "Splinter the Soul" to "Snapshot," effectively marry those refractive qualities.
Whether due to their maturity as songwriters, Steve Albini's blunt-force engineering, or any number of other happy factors, Code Orange have raised the bar once more. And as per Corgan's presence and cosigning, they feel like worthy candidates for the Pumpkins' heirs.
Here's a breakdown of how Code Orange arrived at The Above — with quotes from their brazen, stage-stalking frontman, Jami Morgan.
They Declared Themselves "Out For Blood"
Code Orange's 2020 album Underneath — the one that got nominated for a GRAMMY for Best Metal Performance — was a wonderfully suffocating and immersive work of experimental metal.
The video is hellacious; the song could soundtrack a weekend rappelling off buildings. It unabashedly flirts with nu metal. It's also just a lot of fun.
"Out for Blood" was arguably Code Orange's furthest-afield single to date; those who got on the train back when they were Code Orange Kids, playing to circle pits in VFW halls, may have been a touch confused. (Or, in YouTube comments and on the hardcore Facebook group No Echo, outwardly hostile.)
But regarding their roots, Code Orange are too canny to just let go of the tether; "Out for Blood" was a brief detour, in the form of a bloody good time.
The Concept Bloomed During The Pandemic
If Underneath represented claustrophobic, subterranean depths, The Above lives in blinding, oppressive daylight: the film Midsommar transmuted to music.
"It started with this light metaphor," Morgan tells GRAMMY.com. "I was reading a lot about parasites, and how when they attach to the host, they'll take other bugs that shouldn't be exposed to light and expose them to it, so they can be consumed.
"I saw that as a cool metaphor for trying to follow the light of our outside acceptance," he continues. The songs he was writing dealt with self-acceptance, success and striving for inner peace.
The lockdown kickstarted Code Orange's writing process earlier than expected. "We started with the loose shape of this record right off the bat," he says. "When we started determining what that is — what paths we could take, that we weren't going to take."
They Embraced Hooks & Pop Structure
Nothing on The Above is quite as deliciously shameless as "Out for Blood." But The Above does share one key element with that barbarous banger: a grasp of pop structure.
"It was like a spliced reality off of the Underneath cycle," Morgan says of "Out for Blood." Over Zoom, he points to a mood board behind him, representing The Above: "To me, the band is one wall, and everything we've done fits in."
Accordingly, Code Orange applied lessons learned to their new album. "Every song, heavy or not, has some kind of hook that comes back," he says. "It's not an ABCDEFG record," like some of the songs we've made in the past."
Code Orange. Photo: Tim Saccenti
They Imbued The Music With Newfound Humanity
Scanning the band's discography, Morgan perceives moments where they didn't quite land where they wanted. Because of this, they opted to produce The Above themselves.
"We didn't want to take it and hand it to somebody, like we've done," Morgan says. "Because we've had problems with that."
While at the production controls, they went for a detail-oriented approach that prioritized openness, breathability and forthright emotion — while keeping the experimental torches alight.
They achieved this more organic aesthetic by making the raw band the focus. Also, Morgan rendered his diction clearer, his lyrics more understandable.
"We definitely thought, Can we make something that is experimental, that is boundary-pushing, that is pulled from the past and future," Morgan says, "but is coloring within the lines of structure a little more?"
The Above Feels Like A Bridge Into The Unknown
To Morgan, Code Orange's 15-year evolutionary arc has reached its opposite end on The Above.
As he explains, the closing track, "The Above," is meant to "visualize being on an island of self. I wanted to make a song that you could almost sit on the f—ing beach to, and feel your soul — feel the emotion, and be stoic in yourself."
In that way, The Above is a culmination of everything they've built to — and also a launching pad. "If this was the last thing we did, I will be happy with it," he says. "But I also can see so many possibilities of where to go from it."
Overall, Morgan stresses that Code Orange never existed to rock out or have fun; "It exists to fill a void that I want to see," he says. "We're trying to make statements and we're trying to make artistic pieces.
"If people want that, then we're going to be here forever," Morgan concludes. "And if they don't, then we won't."
But in the modern rock landscape, they bear a message that's difficult to ignore. And it's sung by their spiritual forebear, rock's patron saint of ambition, largesse, and generally being a lot: "Spread your wings."
David Bowie in 2002
Photo: Dave Benett/Getty Images
David Bowie Birthday Tribute: Billy Corgan, Gary Oldman, Lena Hall & Many More
The stacked livestream concert will air on the late GRAMMY-winning musical sorcerer's birthday, Jan. 8, and also feature the talented David Bowie Alumni Band
If there's something 2020 has been filled with, its "Ch-Ch-Changes." A Bowie Celebration: Just for one day! will help viewers start 2021 on a positive note and celebrate what would've been the late, great David Bowie's 74th birthday (Jan. 8).
The virtual concert, hosted by the art rocker's long-time pianist Mike Garson, will feature "a setlist of some of Bowie's most memorable hit songs along with a collection of deep cut Bowie gems," performed by very special guests with support from Garson and the David Bowie Alumni Band.
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A Bowie Celebration: Just for one day! brings together dozens of Bowie alumni band members spanning Bowie’s career from his 1969 self-titled album to his final album, Blackstar , along with many of the world’s most famous voices for a very special experience with performances from William Corgan (The Smashing Pumpkins), Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails), Gary Oldman, Gavin Rossdale (Bush), Perry Farrell (Jane’s Addiction), Joe Elliott (Def Leppard), Grammy-winning singer Macy Gray, Ian Astbury (The Cult), Lzzy Hale (Halestorm), Bernard Fowler (Rolling Stones), Corey Glover (Living Color), Tony-winning rocker Lena Hall, vocal phenom Judith Hill (Grammy winner for 20 Feet From Stardom ), and many more to be announced. Alumni members of Bowie’s bands from throughout his career will join the event including David’s final touring band of Mike Garson, Gail Ann Dorsey, Earl Slick, Sterling Campbell Gerry Leonard and Catherine Russell along with Zack Alford, Carlos Alomar, Kevin Armstrong, Alan Childs, Robin Clark, Emm Gryner, Omar Hakim, Clare Hirst, Erdal Kızılçay, Tim Lefebvre, Martha Mooke, Holly Palmer, Mark Plati, Carmine Rojas, Charlie Sexton, Bowie’s long-time record producer and musician Tony Visconti, and many more coming soon will collaborate with Garson’s special guest vocalists for a setlist of some of Bowie’s most memorable hit songs along with a collection of deep cut Bowie gems. Tickets are on sale now at link in bio with early-bird pricing offered through Sunday, November 1. A variety of VIP ticket bundles are available offering fans a variety of exclusive opportunities and merchandise including everything from access to private rehearsals to access to pre-show soundcheck and an after-show Q&A with members of the band. #abowiecelebration #bowiealumni #davidbowie #davidbowieforever #bowieforever #bowie2021 #JustForOneDay
"What we're planning is an amazing show with the most talented musicians from every period of David's career, as well as phenomenal artists from many different genres. We'll hear different interpretations of David's songs; some with totally new arrangements that have never been heard before," Garson wrote in a press release.
The Alumni Band is made up of musicians who played with the GRAMMY-winning "Rebel Rebel" artist during his illustrious career, including his final touring band—Garson, Gail Ann Dorsey, Earl Slick, Sterling Campbell, Gerry Leonard and Catherine Russell. The group had launched A Bowie Celebration tour on March 3, but, like everything else this year, had to cut things short because of COVID-19.
The virtual concert is being held in partnership with Rolling Live Studios, with early bird tickets starting at $20. It will air on Jan. 8 at 6:00 p.m. PT—ticketholders will be available to watch it for 24 hours.
Smashing Pumpkins in 2019
Photo: Jeff Hahne/Getty Images
Smashing Pumpkins Announce "Bare-Knuckle Rock And Roll" Rock Invasion 2 Tour
Billy Corgan says the tour will bring "the kind of show and set we haven't done for a very, very long time…Full, unrelenting power"
The Smashing Pumpkins have announced a U.S. spring headline tour dubbed the Rock Invasion 2. It's named after their Rock Invasion trek that went down in 1993, the same year they catapulted towards fame with their classic GRAMMY-nominated LP Siamese Dream.
"It's been a good while since we've played a straight-up, bare-knuckle rock and roll show—one that avoids little in the way of raw power," frontman Billy Corgan said in a statement. "This tour won't be for those faint of heart and will certainly echo the dynamic modes in which we built our live reputation."
The 11-date jaunt begins in Louisville, Ky. on April 23 and continues with dates across the Southern and Midwestern states, including a stop at Nashville's legendary Ryman Auditorium on April 28. The tour also includes two festival dates—Memphis' Beale Street Fest and Atlanta's Shaky Knees—before the tour wraps up in Greensboro, N.C. on May 8.
Ticket pre-sale starts tomorrow, March 3, at 10 am local time; newsletter subscribers will get pre-sale access codes.
After the headline shows, the GRAMMY-winning band will embark on their previously announced opening sets for select dates on Guns N' Roses stadium tour. This includes shows in larger cities (and much bigger venues) including Philadelphia, Detroit, Toronto and Boston, all in July.
Corgan shared a long note (which you can read above) about Rock Invasion 2 and their upcoming album, which he teases as their "first double album effort since [2000's] Machina." That hard-rocking LP, Machina/The Machines Of God, turned 20 three days ago on Feb. 29.
The singer/guitarist also shared that the upcoming tour will bring "the kind of show and set we haven't done for a very, very long time…Full, unrelenting power. Enjoy! And bring your ear plugs."
Their last release was an LP in 2018 called SHINY AND OH SO BRIGHT, VOL. 1 / LP: NO PAST. NO FUTURE. NO SUN. No release date has been set yet for their upcoming album.
Rodrigo Varela/Getty Images for LARAS
Mad Cool Fest Returns In 2019 With Vampire Weekend, The Cure & More Plus Fest Upgrades
With the lineup and experience upgrades, the festival to be held July 11-13 in Madrid is sure to be one for the books
Mad Cool Festival's diverse musical lineups have brought out a global fan base to its home in Madrid, Spain every year since 2016. The fest has announced its 2019 lineup and musical acts include iconic groups like the Cure, rising bands like Greta Van Fleet and other artists that mesh rock, pop and electro from all over the world. The bill along with its recently announced festival upgrades make the fest sure to be one for the books.
@SmashingPumpkin @NoelGallagher @GretaVanFleet @JorjaSmith @si_bonobo @Jon_Hopkins_ @TheHives @KAYTRANADA @wolfmother @TeenageFanclub @alizzzmusic @rollingbcf y @LewisCapaldi entre las nuevas incorporaciones al cartel! #MadCool2019 #MC19MediaDay pic.twitter.com/2jKTxJXxSh— Mad Cool Festival (@madcoolfestival) November 29, 2018
To launch the fest being held July 11-13, Bon Iver, Vampire Weekend and Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds top the lineup on Thursday that also includes Canada's Kaytranada, La Dispute and The Hives. Friday will bring out The National and the Smashing Pumpkins as headliners and Madrid's own Vetusta Morla, Wolfmother, Germany's Sophie Hunger, among some other exciting acts throughout the day. Saturday closes off the musical celebration with the Cure, the 1975 and Greta Van Fleet. Other artists include Bonobo, Mogwai and England's Jorja Smith.
The 2019 edition of Mad Cool Fest has upgrades that will be an experience within itself. This time, the fest will have more space as it will reduce the number of stages and will get rid of one VIP area. They will also have more restrooms and free metro rides from the Valdebebas to the center of Madrid between 1.30 a.m. and 5.30 a.m.
If this lineup hasn't inspired you to experience the fest, maybe visiting the beautifully historic city of Madrid will. Go here for ticket info visit Festicket.