Baby Boomers Exorcism and Picnic
Jon Pareles - New York Times 11/25/1993

(Sent to us by Dave Asselin)

In American pop culture, these are the days of regression. As baby boomers cling to the sitcoms and artifacts of their adolescence, alternative rockers in their 20's hurl themselves back to the traumas of childhood. With Smashing Pumpkins (who opened a sold-out stand at Roseland on Tuesday night), Pearl Jam and Nirvana, the Top 10 has been populated by rockers trying to exorcise troubled childhoods for themselves and their fans. "What's a boy supposed to do?" Billy Corgan sang in an anguished wail on Tuesday night. As the crowd sang along, he continued: "The killer, in me is the killer in you."

In their music, Smashing Pumpkins look back to the psychedelic late 1960's. The Chicago-based band has revived the viscous guitars and the stately, sometimes explosive drumming of groups like the Jimi Hendrix experience and Pink Floyd. The music rushes out, a sonic avalanche of double time drums and hard-riffing guitar, then suddenly pauses and floats, cymbals tapping lightly above a sustained chord. A delicate finger-picked guitar line may appear, twinkling quietly; a few moments later, guitar power chords come crashing back, with blotches of unruly feedback.

In the 1960's, the music suggested a willingness to explore uncharted possibilities as a group; now, the psychedelic voyages are laced with more danger and aggression, less sense of community. "I'm all by myself, as I've always felt" Mr. Corgan sang in "Soma", about a bitter breakup; in "Spaceboy" he adds "any way you choose me, we won't belong". Mr. Corgan, who writes most of the band's material,is no rock hero. He has a thin, nasal voice that he often pushes towards a rasp; he doesn't try to command the stage, though he does allow himself an occasional gesture with his guitar. In the set's opening son "Geek USA" (which provides the title for the band's second album, "Siamese Dream" - on Virgin Records), he sang "I never liked me anyway".

The songs are mournful, doubting the possibility of love or any other human connection and haunted by death: "Bang bang you're dead, hole In your head", Mr. Corgan crooned as if it were a lullaby. But the music fights back wit hits momentum and noise. The songs may not have hope for their-final destination, but they're in motion anyway.

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