although one wouldn't necessarily know it by looking at my charts, The Smashing Pumpkins played a very important role in the evolution of my musical taste. in high school, i lived and breathed Siamese Dream (i can still listen to that album in its entirety in my head, to this day). i dug backwards to Gish and the Lullep, falling in love with both. the release of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness was, for me, the most anticipated moment of 2005. when it became available, i purchased the singles boxed set. when the pumpkins lost a portion of their fanbase with Adore, i held it in high regard indeed, praising it as being their second-best album (behind Siamese Dream, of course). hell, i even tried to rationalize the lapses in judgement (in hindsight, obviously the signs of a band on the fast-track to self-destruction) that resulted in Machina. in fact, Machina may have been the first album i illegally downloaded (only so that i could enjoy it until i purchased it on its day of release, of course). all told, i saw the band live four times. you get the picture.
and even after the pumpkins, i tried to remain loyal. i dutifully purchased a copy of the zwan album when it came out. (for those of you who are asking "who is zwan?" i say: "exactly.") of course by this point i was a very different person and a very different music fan. i was possibly less excited about an album from billy corgan than i was about matt sweeney and david pajo's involvement. of course, this being a corgan project, any trace of pajo and sweeney's styles were completely erased from the record. this is, after all, the billy show. i never saw the band live, and barely noticed when they broke up.
then there was the matter of the solo album. you know what? i still have not heard a single note of it. i didn't even bother downloading it. did not go see billy corgan on tour. didn't even see him hawk the album on letterman. nope. nothing. i caught wind of the fact that he had released a book of poetry, and quickly tried my best to forget that i had heard about it.
then came the most curious news of all: the fact that, on the day that his solo album was being released in the united states, he took out a full-page ad in the chicago tribune practically begging his former bandmates to return to the employ of the billy goat. besides being the worst-possible advertisement for his "solo debut" (i have used quotation marks here because, let's face it, siamese dream was a solo album), it smacks of a certain sad, pathetic, pitiful desperation that is rarely seen being displayed so nakedly. it was a complete trainwreck moment with an ending that was all too obvious to everyone. except, apparently, for billy.
so, surprise surprise, james and d'arcy tell billy to go fuck himself. or, more likely, they completely avoid him so as not to have to endure the intolerable awkwardness of confronting a man so far beyond the end of his rope. (jimmy and billy are, of course, inseperable ever since billy came back to him with his tail between his legs and let him back into the band after the harsh reaction to adore. i don't even want to think about how complicated that relationship must be.) so after being abandoned in public by his former vassals, he does what any other self-respecting/self-loathing frontman would do: he soldiers on on his own, under the band's name. why not? he had already basically done that in 1993.
now since then, billy's been playing the classic enticement game, revealing little bits of information that don't really tell you anything at all, and completely avoiding any questions the fans may have, such as: who's in the band? of course, at this point, billy has lost so much credibility. i forget when exactly the quote was from, but i distinctly remember hearing or reading a statement from billy that said, "it wouldn't be the smashing pumpkins if it weren't the four of us." that went out the window when he kicked jimmy out of the band. after a revolving door of drummers (including drum machines), he lets jimmy back into the band. exit d'arcy, enter melissa. and now, exit melissa and james, and enter.... two random people. two random people who most likely had nothing to do with the album, and were in all likelihood recruited after the album was recorded. after all, who needs a band if you have laid claim to the name of the band and, hence, its legacy?
all that brings us up to the debacle that emerged a few weeks ago. for those who haven't heard, the corganator found a unique way to celebrate the return of the pumpkins and to bask in the devotion of both old-time fans and johnnys-come-lately. namely, he decided to release the new album, album artist=the smashing pumpkins]zeitgeist[/album] in no less than five different formats in the united states. yes, five. first you have the standard, 12-track version of the disc. then, you have the deluxe limited edition version of the album, which still has 12-tracks, but is packaged in a hardcover book and contains extra artwork. then you have the itunes version, which has a bonus track. then, you have the best buy version, which contains a different bonus track. then, there is the target version, which contains yet another bonus track - the title track, just to rub salt in the wound. so yes, you read that correctly - the true fan, who wants to collect everything, is forced to buy THREE copies of the album - the itunes version, the target version, and the best buy version - and must purchase them at big box stores, no less. if said fan also cllects artwork, then said fan will also want to buy the deluxe hardbound edition. oh, and speaking of artwork - have i mentioned the EIGHT or so different variations on the cover artwork, each particular to a different retail store or country? the combinations are myriad.
here's the thing. retail-store-exclusive bonus tracks or special packaging are nothing new. fucking over indie stores is nothing new. now, one can always bring up that the pumpkins started out on Caroline Records and really got their start through fans who purchased music through indie stores, but that argument has been presented many more times about many more valid bands. this is the way things happen. it's unfortunate, but it's true. bands get big, sign to bigger labels, the labels find ways of screwing over the little stores. if Sonic Youth can do an exclusive cd for starbucks, i'll lose no sleep over billy corgan giving indie stores the cold shoulder.
but this strategy of splitting up the bonus tracks, along with the deluxe version that bears no bonus tracks. this strategy of taking all your fans, fans who have weathered machina and zwan and [album artis=billy corgan]thefutureembrace[/album] and your insipid little book of poetry, fans who have abided your every misstep and waited patiently for this. this strategy of making people buy three or four copies of the same album. this strategy of raping your biggest and best fans as you pick their pockets - that, my dear billy, is the most unkindest cut of all.
the truth of the matter is i was still losing no sleep over this. i figured the album was going to suck anyway, so why worry about it? i was somewhat curious in a nostalgic sense - i mean, come on, the pumpkins were so integral to my life for a time and defintiely shaped the evolution of my taste. but i was okay with the idea of being curious from afar. then, i saw his stunt at live earthtoday.
from what i saw, all of the artists involved in live earth understood the purpose of the event. they understood that it was something bigger than them, and their album sales and their gold records. and what i saw were a lot of artists who put their egos on hold. some maybe took themselves a bit too seriously, others let their hair down and had some fun.
the pumpkins decided to mark the occasion by playing a wobbly performance of a rather lackluster new song, with billy completely fumbling an over-processed effects-laden solo and instead launching, for some bizarre reason that i cannot fathom, into a sloppy rendition of "the star-spangled banner," and then performing a somewhat flat Bullet With Butterfly Wings. after a serviceable performance of by-the-numbers new single Tarantula, billy reminded everyone, "our new album, Zeitgeist, comes out this tuesday, july 10." i winced. no, he did not just have the audacity to promote his new album during this event, did he? did he really just become THAT guy?
and then it got worse.
"and i know you will all go out and buy it, and will not download it illegally."
yes, he took it there. in front of millions and millions of people, he made live earth about stealing the money he is stealing from his fans.
all of a sudden, i found i cared a hell of a lot about this. no more of this curiosity from afar. instead, i did what any other astute, self-respecting, self-aware, and morally-centered music fan would do.
i fired up my bittorrent client and went to a torrent site and went a-searching. yes, billy corgan inadvertently inspired me to illegally download his new album.
and it gets better - the torrent i found contains the full album, all three bonus tracks, and the artwork from the deluxe edition. and if i go to wikipedia, they have all the different covers, so i could in theory download those as well. there is no reason at all for me to contribute to this plan for any of the myriad versions of the album.
i want to make it my mission to make sure i do my part in foiling
do your part to save music.
come align for the big fight to rock for you.
p.s. please note that i have not actually listened to the album yet. because of my sentimental attachment to the pumpkins, i want to make sure that i listen with a sharp and objective mind, and i fear that right now i am too tired to be unswayed by nostalgia. therefore, i have no idea how high the quality of the rip itself is. i will give a report tomorrow on both the quality of the album and the quality of the sound.