A Dear John letter to Billy Corgan and the Smashing Pumpkins
I refuse to start this letter with an apology or an excuse as to why we aren't working out. It's been pretty obvious since around 1996 that I have lost interest in you — The Aeroplane Flies High was the last time I bought in — and now, eighteen years after we were first introduced, I finally have the guts to say goodbye. I fault your impending appearance with the skeletal remains of the Smashing Pumpkins at KTCL's Big Gig (which maybe you are looking forward to) for spurring these feelings of finality, and for that I am sorry.
The Smashing Pumpkins at KTCL's Big Gig, with Chevelle, Anberlin, Flobots and lots more, 1 p.m. Saturday, September 18, Comfort Dental Amphitheatre, 6350 Greenwood Plaza Boulevard, Greenwood Village, $19-$45, 303-830-8497.
But in truth, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness is when the end began. My devotion started to dwindle when you denounced your fans for not falling head over heels for this new, Butch Vig-less sound, but you failed to see how much Siamese Dream had impacted our lives. I appreciated Mellon Collie for all of its sweeping strings and Victorian-inspired big-budget video moments, and "1979" still hinted that you had some connection to the teenage soul I first crushed so hard on. The Aeroplane boxed set that followed was, to me, your swan song as SP, and "Medellia of the Gray Skies" was a reminder that your songwriting was what flourished in my heart and head. "Mouths of Babes" and "Marquis in Spades" sounded like stolen moments from Slunk or Pisces Iscariot, and could have served as an amicable end to my first long-term relationship.
But you didn't stop. Adore appeared, and close friends tried to convince me it was a good record, that it was the same old Smashing Pumpkins and that you hadn't checked out for good. I still couldn't listen to it, but I remained at your side, hopeful that things would change. It wasn't until the Machina albums mess that I put my foot down; though I hadn't seen you perform since the Siamese Dream tour, I vowed never to see Smashing Pumpkins live again. I would break this secret internal pact in 2008, when I let my guard down for the sham known as "The Smashing Pumpkins 20th Anniversary Tour," a shit show that managed to exclude founding members D'Arcy Wretzky and James Iha.
The "Anniversary" tour shows were embarrassing: You heckled your own fans, lashed out when we didn't fawn over your mediocre new material, and you insisted on playing boring, extended drum solos. I think back to your Tila Tequila and Jessica Simpson love affairs, your claims of lead poisoning that subsequently caused strange outfit choices, your joining of the revived Source Family cult, and your terrible decision to use MySpace face Audrey Kitching in the video for the flat single "G.L.O.W," and I cringe. The course of all of this — your career, our relationship and music history at large — could have been altered with one simple move: a name change. Sure, I remember that moment when Zwan was in existence. But that moment didn't last long enough. The Smashing Pumpkins name has forever been stained by your inability to grow up.
For the record, I did love you once. I still get shivers when I think about the first time we met, me sitting in the dark watching 120 Minutes and seeing "Cherub Rock" come through my television set, forever changing my life. I look back at that video now and remember why I fell in love with you in the first place: Because you were one-fourth of the Smashing Pumpkins, a band that once created a record that moved my preteen ears from Top 40 sex jams to music that made me want to become a musician. Now you are just a bitter old man, hunched over and poised to carry the shell of a band I used to love.
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