Today, Billy Corgan is streaming the new Smashing Pumpkins album “Oceania” in its entirety. I say Corgan, rather than the band, because I refuse to accept this entourage of youngsters as the same entity that brought us albums like “Gish” and “Siamese Dream.” You can debate all you want about who really played on those records and the percentages concerning how much is actually just Corgan overdubbing ad infinitum, but for kids that grew up in the ’90s, we have a very specific mental picture of the group, even if Jimmy Chamberlin is missing from a couple of those images.
In promotion of the new record, Corgan has talked with a few publications, and as per usual, he has taken the opportunity to shoot his mouth off and talk about his traditionalist ways and how no one else adheres to them. In his recent Q&A with Antiquiet, Corgan had this to say in regards to the public’s perception of Radiohead, over say, Rainbow guitarist Ritchie Blackmore.
“I can’t think of any people outside of Weird Al Yankovic who have both embraced and pissed on Rock more than I have. Obviously there’s a level of reverence, but there’s also a level of intelligence to even know what to piss on. ‘Cause I’m not pissing on Rainbow. I’m not pissing on Deep Purple. But I’ll piss on fuckin’ Radiohead, because of all this pomposity. This value system that says Jonny Greenwood is more valuable than Ritchie Blackmore. Not in the world I grew up in, buddy. Not in the world I grew up in.
So I find myself defending things. Is Ritchie Blackmore a better guitar player than me and Jonny Greenwood? Yes. Have we all made contributions? Yes. I’m not attacking that. I’m attacking the pomposity that says this is more valuable than that. I’m sick of that. I’m so fucking sick of it, and nobody seems to tire of it.”
Of course, what he’s saying here isn’t exactly ludicrous — Ritchie Blackmore is certainly not valued as much as Jonny Greenwood in our musical climate, and maybe he should be valued more considering he’s a great guitar player. The thing is though, plenty of guitar players from Blackmore’s generation are revered by this generation — Jimmy Page, Pete Townshend, Tony Iommi, etc. Blackmore isn’t regarded as much as Greenwood because “OK Computer” is more influential and important than “Rainbow Rising.” Corgan however is once again showing his age with his blind allegiance to his classic-rockist ways, refusing to accept the notion of important music emerging since his entrance into the game over twenty years ago, saying “I’m sorry, every system up until the last ten, twelve years… it kicked its own door in.” It sounds to me as if Corgan feels that music has not been important since his name dropped far from the headlines.
Corgan has a history of being brash and lashing out against contemporaries, and much like Oasis’ Gallagher brothers, it always seems more out of resentment than anything else. There’s former bandmate James Iha, whom Corgan called an “asshole” on Grunge Report where he also referred to Pavement as sellouts for simply getting together to play some shows together. He also tweeted at the time,
“funny how those who pointed the big finger of ‘sell out’ are the biggest offenders now…yawn. they have no love… by the way, we’ll be the band up there playing NEW songs because we have the love xx”
What Corgan fails to realize in that “slam” is that there’s a reason that all original members of Pavement could do that, and why Corgan has to hire children who were oblivious to his years of ornery behavior. That reason has everything to do with love and a lack of it.
Getting into the fact that Corgan is making sub-par music and starting a pro-wrestling/league are beside the point here, but it should be noted that yes, that is also going on with the man right now, which is a real shame considering the magic that once came from this person’s brain, and that his monstrous ego and attitude were at a time nearly justifiable.
Whenever Corgan does take the opportunity to slag other artists, we’re always brought back to the the infamous Pavement line from “Range Life,” where Stephen Malkmus describes the Smashing Pumpkins as “having no function.” The lyric, which was never intended to be an attack on Smashing Pumpkins (even if Malkmus didn’t actually care for their music), was a comment on the “old yuppie” perspective of a person who doesn’t want to move with the times, trying to live in their glory period forever. Of course, Corgan never saw it that way, pushing Pavement off their ’94 Lollapalooza dates by threatening to jump ship if he was forced to share a stage with them.
The ironic thing here is that Corgan himself has assumed the character in “Range Life” in his later years. In a Billboard interview last March, he said of young artists today,”Don’t call it rock and roll…I was part of a generation that changed the world — and it was taken over by poseurs.” What is Corgan saying in that Antiquiet interview if not “I don’t understand what they mean, and I could really give a fuck”? Corgan has spent years saying things meant to ruffle feathers, but for over a decade now, he has only succeeded in plucking his own.