MISFITS: Smashing Pumpkins avoid labels; they just try

March 8th 1996
By: Adam Sweetig
Manchester Guardian 


Billy Corgan relishes his role as one of rock 'n' roll's most obstinate misfits.

His band, Smashing Pumpkins, was designed to confound all known categories and defy easy description. Having created this exotic band, Corgan gets surly when listeners do not make enough effort to see what he is driving at.

"Any way you slice it, there is not another band in the world that is like the Smashing Pumpkins, who can play hard rock, pop music, psychedelic music, gentle music," Corgan said. "If people want to call us 'prog-rock,' it denies the 80 other things we're capable of doing."

There is more than a whiff pedantic self-righteousness in Corgan's attitude. At the same time, he keeps proving that he has the skill and imagination to back up his claims.

Smashing Pumpkins broke from the Chicago underground in 1993 with the album Siamese Dream, a stunning exhibition of power chords, hard-rock muscle and melodicism.

The band's latest album, the sprawling Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness, is Corgan's most ambitious statement. It encompasses crushing rock songs, grotesquely altered heavy metal, vast expanses of progressive rock and interludes of exquisite, fragile delicacy.

Still, the faddish and sporadically anti-American members of the British music press remain unimpressed. Corgan feels that Britain's perverse pop scribes will not take the band seriously.

"We see ourselves as an anomaly," Corgan said. "But rather than be treated as a special case, we're beaten over the head for not falling into whatever category is popular at the particular moment.

"We have no respect for the opinion-makers in the press, because they're wrong every time. There's an audience for us which is beyond the influence of this idiocy."

As part of a European promotional trip, Smashing Pumpkins have blown into England to record a television appearance. The cold, gray weather has brought out the band's worst tendencies.

Corgan is slumped in a chair, wearing a wool hat and thick overcoat. Every now and then, revelry from next door provokes him to leap out of his chair and take flying kicks at the wall.

Awkward customers they may be, but the Pumpkins know what they are doing and what they want. They see their objective as "playing good music," regardless of pop trends and flimsy musical bandwagons.

The Pumpkins insist that they were never sucked into the grunge phenomenon, but they embody the same detached, disgruntled attitude that became synonymous with the grunge bands. "All grunge was ever about was taking the best parts of hard rock and transmuting them into a different mind-set," Corgan said. "But I think we've finally proved that we're not a grunge band, thankfully."

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