SP Reviews

Feast for night howls
Smashing Pumpkins/ Verve - Brixton Academy Show Review
By David Sinclair - 9/27/93

(Sent to us by Dave Asselin)

Take two hyper-intense, guitar bands, one British, one American. Heap generously with critical acclaim. Place together in one handy value-for-money package and voila: a night of howls, drones and feedback-enhanced whine sufficient to please all but the most hardened of the alternative rock cognoscenti.

With both groups seemingly poised near the start of a long upward career curve, it is Smashing Pumpkins, with their second album, Siamese Dream, a Top 10 hit both here and in America, who have actually delivered something more than great promise. The four-piece from Chicago, led by singer and guitarist Billy Corgan, quickly revealed their penchant for psychotic mood swings.

Playing at a volume that placed them well within the metal zone, they set off at a furious lick with "Geek U.S.A.", delivered with the sort of manic severity that Metallica used to summon.

But other numbers, including a disappointingly truncated version of "Rhinoceros", were presented with such contrasting delicacy that -it could almost have been a different band playing, even if the regal looking bassist D'Arcy never turned her instrument down much below trouser-flapping level.

Corgan overdid the amateur theatrics towards the end, dressing up as a clown and then launching off into a fevered monologue which ended with a bizarre snatch of "Somewhere Over The Rainbow". The ensuing finale was about as hot and friendly as a nuclear burn.

IN AMERICA, groups capable of combining such colossal aggressive energy with a sense of melodic proportion are becoming a fairly common feature of rock in the post Nirvana era. British bands, by comparison, still tend to be more effete and self-consciously laid-back. Even so, few have shown themselves capable of marshalling the sort of dreamy, ragged sound that Verve went in for to dramatic effect earlier in the evening.

Introduced by an MC who proclaimed them "the greatest rock'n'roll band from Wigan", the four-piece group conjured a melancholy high with opaque songs like "Slide Away" and "Virtual World", which surrendered their charm reluctantly.

Frontman Richard Ashcroft, the latest in a long line of preening, scarecrow-thin singers, shimmied awkwardly about the stage. But the rest of the band were spectacularly uninteresting to watch, especially guitarist Nick McCabe, who coaxed gorgeous, shimmering wodges of sound from his instrument while exuding all the enthusiasm of a man waiting for a bus. The hypnotic spell was thus undermined by a mild torpor which even relatively propulsive "Blue" and "gravity Grave" could not altogether dispel.

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