(Smashing) Pumpkins Stew - New dub-style
ATN - 12/18/96

Addicted To Noise staff writer Gil Kaufman reports: I think I've gotten over my love/hate relationship with the Smashing Pumpkins. Over the past four years, no band has elated, infuriated and elated me again more than Captain Corgan and his sullen band of not-so-merry men and woman. There were nights, like one at Chicago's Metro just after Siamese Dream came out, where I was convinced there was no other band that mattered more at that moment. Then there was Lollapalooza a year later, where I began to suspect no band mattered less than this bloato-Pink-Floyd-wannabe-car-crash of guitar solos and hair streaks. And just as I was starting to think they'd used all their good tricks up and rendered themselves a moot point again by giving us too much (drama, product, etc.), I think I saw it again.

In Letterman's words, the Pumpkins "blew the roof off the dump" in San Jose last night (December 16), but it was the way they found a new formula for re-invigorating their music that saved the night. For many months now, both Billy Corgan and James Iha have been not-so-subtly suggesting in interviews and from the stage that the Pumpkins as we know them are a thing of the past. One conversation last night, following the band's teen spirit anthem, "Bullet With Butterfly Wings," went a little like this:

Iha: "Thank you for your response to our big song." (wild applause) "What do you want? Some more rock and roll? Bush? No Doubt?"

Corgan: "Haven't you heard? Rock and Roll is dead."

Iha: "Oh yeah, rock and roll is dead."

Corgan: "And we helped kill it." (boos)

Iha: "Yes, well, the next time we see you it will be past the stars, on the other side of the moon, where they found that water. That's where we're going next." (smattering of boos)

Corgan: "Your boos sound just like cheers to us...lighten up, have a sense of humor."

Which, oddly enough, is exactly what the (Rat) King of Pain, not exactly known for his rollicking sense of humor, seemed to have extra reserves of. I began to believe the Pumpkins were half-way to the Dark Side of the Moon three or four songs into the over-two-hour hockey arena-rockin' set. The pulsating lights, the Electric Kool-Aid Pumpkin Test psychedelic images that flashed on the two sets of giant screens flanking the huge angry robot, hell-fire Christmas tree lighting rig that dominated the set, and the epic jams, too many to count, all signs that this was a band that was venting, maybe even purging.

With the stage lit up like a futuristic jailbreak, perfectly synchronized lights and a stage show so precise, so professional, it almost felt like the loudest, brightest off Broadway rock extravaganza on painted wheels, the Pumpkins squeezed every bit of righteous rock bombast and bomb blast out of their impeccably-dressed systems and rhythms. The big, stylized, techno-culture-meets-hippie-liquid-light-show atmosphere of the gig was yet another new face for the band that started this tour by performing an acoustic set in their pajamas.

Filter drummer Matt Walker, so fully subsumed into the belly of the band now (which makes you wonder if "Filter drummer Matt Walker" will continue to be his nom de rock for much longer), played with such dexterity and strength, jazzy fills one minute, staccato industrial barrages the next, at a few points you might have wondered what the band did before they sacked their previous awesome drummer.

The techno beats, the Other Side of the Moon talk, the parade of upwards-spiraling, endless guitar solos, the Pink Floyd psychedelia and jamming, if the Pumpkins weren't sending a message then this was the most self-consciously over-the-top rock show on the road. Even if they were sending a message, it was sometimes a little too over-the-top, especially the brain-busting, nearly 45-minute endjam, "Silverfuck," which had more movements than a Yes suite. Still, despite the occasional excess, the jam was highlighted D'Arcy's uncharacteristic dub-style bass lines which brought yet another new sound to the Pumpkin's arsenal.

It was all too much, way too much, but the band seemed to know that, and like it. With Star Wars video images of zooming stars we all know as the sign of the jump to light speed, the Pumpkins spilled all their rock guts onto the stage and then some, declaring (very) loud and clear, "This is a big heap of the rock stuff, enjoy it while you can, because it won't last forever."

It remains to be seen if the Pumpkins will really take as radical a turn as they've been threatening. But, like U2 after The Joshua Tree, (or Zooropa for that matter, if all the talk about the techno-leaning Pop can be believed) the Pumpkins seem ready to shed their rocker skin on the stages of America's arenas and start from scratc

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