The band I remember as The Smashing Pumpkins broke up in 2000, after 11 eventful years together. At the time it sent shock waves through alternative rock music circles. In truth, many fans were amazed they lasted as long as they did. Problems in the band first began in 1996, when touring keyboardist Jonathan Melvoin died from a drug overdose. Pumpkin’s drummer Jimmy Chamberlain was arrested and subsequently kicked out of the band for possession of heroin in connection with Melvoin’s death. Chamberlain was later reinstated in 1998 but soon after D’arcy Wretzky quit the band allegedly over frontman Billy Corgan’s despotic control over the band. Later Corgan would allege that she was fired because she was a drug addict who refused to get help. But at the end of the day, The Smashing Pumpkins seemed like they were cursed to fail with never-ending cracks appearing in their solidarity. Even, in 2006, when Corgan revived the Smashing Pumpkins, basically in name only with a revolving line up coming together occasionally, it has really never been the same.
Looking back now it’s fair to say The Smashing Pumpkins definitely put up a good fight, often running against expectations and trends with its conceptual art rock. But what I remember most about their best work is that it was ultimately a Corgan project. It was truly a blessing and a curse in which Corgan’s alleged self-importance overwhelmed the band’s interpersonal relationships. Though I understand Corgan didn’t quite see it that way, seemingly laying blame at the feet of everyone else including the Britney Spears of the world. “There’s nothing wrong inside the band,” Billy Corgan once said on Los Angeles radio station in May 2000. “But the way the culture is and stuff, it’s hard to keep trying to fight the good fight against the Britneys.”
Anyway, for a lot of fans who loved The Smashing Pumpkins, nothing is more bittersweet than classic tracks like ‘Today’, ‘Rocket’, ‘Disarm’, ‘Cherub Rock’, ‘1979’ and ‘Bullet With Butterfly Wings’. It is the latter (from the 1995 album Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness) that reminds me of all the chaos and regret of the past, not mine, but the [Smashing] Pumpkins. It’s both weird and adventurous with its arrangements, as Corgan blurts out lyrics like “The world is a vampire / Sent to drain” and “Jesus was an only son / Tell me I’m the chosen one” But quite possibly the lyrics that he screeches out in the chorus “Despite all my rage, I am still just a rat in a cage,” are the song’s best moments. In short, Bullet With Butterfly Wings is a real banger with Chamberlain holding the song together brilliantly with some great tribal drumming that even the four horsemen of the apocalypse would be proud of.