Monday, October 29, 2007

Tales Of A Scorched Earth

Let's start this one with a bang: this is the Pumpkins' heaviest, hardest, and angriest song.

Bam! I'm tempted to leave it at that, but I'm not going to (duh!) You can tell right from the offset that this is going to be an ear-splitter, it cuts in with that tape-start kind of sounds, a hint of feedback, then right in to an really low and heavy riff.

Then Billy gets going.  The lyrics are eq'd up to the highest frequencies, giving an even sharper edge to ridiculous lines like "cause you're all whores, and i'm a fag, and i've got no mother, and i've got no dad."  I mean, damn.

I guess, having said that the song is the heaviest, I'm having trouble writing about it now.  I guess because it's so biting and heavy on all outer levels that it's pretty redundant to note that it's heavy.  It would be interesting to try to make a point about the song's pretty parts, peeling the downer-onion-skins to reveal a kind-hearted gem.  But just like the vocals are stripped of their low-end, I don't think there's much more to this song than the bite.

That said, there are two tiny parts that contain glimmers.  It's implied that Billy has had hope or even has hope, just that everything has worked so hard against him that they don't even matter to him anymore.  Also, at one time, Billy tried to be more than what he is, but was equally stepped on.  The Earth is Hope, and it is Scorched? Sure.

Songs like this benefit from the almost playful tone the Mellon Collie cover art has.  The typeface that spells out "tales of a scorched earth" is so jovial that you don't even notice what the song is called, much less expect something so violent.


I think I've actually managed to not write about anything on Mellon Collie yet! This is ridiculous. I will now remedy this.

Remedy it with Love!

Anyways, Love sounds filthy.  Like, really really filthy.  But it sounds like filth from the future.  Techno-psycho-future-rock.  That's what Love is.

And I think that's what Billy is trying to say Love is, too.  He's singing in a way that could almost sound bored, but he manages to pack a huge bite in there, too. As for the lyrics, they're pretty cryptic and unspecific, but there are some great little moments throughout the song, including the killer couplet of "she shimmy shakes / the jimmy jakes of consequence."  I don't know what a jimmy jake is, but shimmy shakes is downright sexy. But gross-sexy.  Filthy, like the song.  

The lyrics also have a sort of mocking tone towards drippy love-letter-style writing (which makes it downright hilarious to have Cupid De Locke be the next song), especially lines like "born of the airs and dues," things like that, but then Billy reels it back to the mud with "my airs of madness do declare, that it's okay, it's love."

In the second half of the song, things get really interesting, with the build up to the solo, then the solo itself, which I swear to God was beamed down from Mars, then after the solo there's another build-up to the final chorus, which has one little chord change to keep everything interesting (successfully).  Then everything swirls down into oblivion, before sputtering out one last mudsoaked breath.

Now that's love.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Apathy's Last Kiss

When I was 14, Apathy's Last Kiss was probably the weirdest thing I'd ever heard.

It's still pretty weird today (I am 20).  It seems like it's comprised of a bunch of different songs that share the same chords put together.  Which it probably is.  It changes keys right in the middle for no reason, has flanging and chorus effects hammed on to it wherever there's room (or not). It's a mad-house! 

It's one of those songs that was always going to be a b-side. Could you imagine this song on Siamese Dream? No.

But of course, it's charming to me.  It's so strange, but it starts so compellingly.  The first fifteen seconds have such a nice little build-up that when things start getting weird ten seconds later, you don't really mind.

By the end of the song, the bass gets grungy and everything falls apart.  It's a perfect end to such a strange little gem, no? With songs like this, there are two ways of ending it: a) have it fall apart, or b) have it explode.  This song hasn't exactly cornered the market on a), but I'd say it does a pretty fair job.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Let Me Give The World To You

So if "Stellar" is the song that would have saved Zeitgeist, it's arguable that "Let Me Give The World To You" is the song that would have "saved" Adore.

I'm going to disagree with this, mainly because I don't think Adore needs saving at all.  If there was any Adore out take that should have been on the album, I would prefer Chewing Gum (Adore has some great pop moments, why not play them up?) or Once In A While (if it was taken off because of Once Upon A Time, couldn't you just rename it? I digress). 

The reason I say all this is that there seems to be this prevailing mood around the song that it was the 'hit' single Adore 'never had.'  I don't know who started this, but thinking like that is kind of silly.  I may say that "Set the ray to Jerry" really should have been on Mellon Collie, but when I think about it, I have trouble placing it on the album.  It sounds perfect on the 1979 single!  That said, Let Me Give The World To You would probably have an easier time 'fitting' on Adore than Billy thought (he said it didn't fit once, btw).  

I think what really drags the song down for me is it's placing on Machina II, which is a problem Machina II often has.  It feels more like a collection of songs rather than a set in stone album.  So any one great song has a rough time standing out because they're all jumbled up in one big mass.

The other thing that drags LMGTWTY is it's production.  Of all the songs that have that strange reverb sheen of Machina II songs, LMGTWTY is the one that really suffers from it.  It makes the song so bland, which is odd, because if you strain to hear Billy, he's giving one of the more passionate vocal performances of the era.

Apparently a version exists somewhere that Rick Rubin produced, featuring "a stripped down arrangement, with guitar, bass, organ, and Joey Waronker on drums" (thanks SPFC).  Now that would sound great! I could see why it wouldn't have fit on Adore, but couldn't they have just released it as a stand alone single?  Why don't more people do that these days?

The band has recently started to bring the song into the setlist, but (based on one version I heard of it, maybe the first night was better) the song still seems a little bland, and sounds like it's the 'one more than we needed' of songs the New Pumpkins play that's based on jangly-delay-guitars-and-maybe-organ.

So the jury's still out on this one, I guess.  In some alternate dimension, would the Pumpkins have retained their popularity (or found a new one) if they'd released this song back in '98? sliderssssss.

Monday, October 8, 2007


For those who don't know, at the beginning of the band's formation, they were very much a new wave Cure-ish band.  Billy's said a billion times how much he loves the Cure, and the early songs show that very much, and not always for the better.  The biggest concern is that Billy a) doesn't really know what his voice can do yet, and b) since he doesn't, he slips into Robert Smith emulation.

All that said, there are some gems from the period.  For instance, "She."

She is based around one main riff, played on a pretty jangling guitar.  Songs based on one riff have to build things around this riff, changing the background elements in an exciting way, so that when the song reaches a place where the riff changes, it's really exciting.  I think She pulls that off great.  It's really fun and catchy, too, a good song to tap your foot and shake your head from side to side.  There's great little guitar licks being played around the main riff, and Jimmy keeps the dynamics exciting.

The lyrics leave a little something to be desired, with a pretty glaring Cure reference in the chorus (haven't we already heard a new wave song talking about the days of the week?), but the verses are simple and effective.  You're not looking for something too specific and lofty and the words, you know, since after all the song is called simply "She." 

It is funny to think about what would have been if the Pumpkins never went rock.  If Billy had learned how to control his voice, then She could had been really lifted into awesome single status, maybe.  Maybe.  Next lifetime, then.

Friday, October 5, 2007


It does seem sort of silly for me to be so focused on Zeitgeist-era songs.

But those are the ones that are fresher in my mind, so I can't really help it.

Most people's problems (mine included) with Zeitgeist come from the fact that the album has roughly one type of song: the barnburner.  While there are a couple of songs that don't quite fit that (Neverlost being a nice ballad and Pomp & Circumstances being a piece of shit), the album breaks into your house with a boombox and a hammer and doesn't really leave.  

The worry was that Billy was trying to revive the Pumpkins that everyone remembered, and couldn't remember all the things that made the Pumpkins the great band they were.  He decided that people remembered them as a crushing rock band here to steal your children.

He'd be wrong if he thought that, but fortunately, he doesn't.

Stellar is the song that I feel captures the essence of the Pumpkins better than any other Zeitgeist-era song.  It's rock, but it's got feeling, too.  Most other songs on Zeitgeist feel bland and devoid of emotion, but Stellar manages to be powerful with guitars and sound, and also powerful with feeling.

I think that if all the bonus tracks for Zeitgeist (Death From Above, Stellar, and Zeitgeist) were included on the actual album (maybe remove Pomp & Circumstances for safety's sake), then Zeitgeist would be considered an album worthy to stand next to the old Pumpkins.

As a song by itself, Stellar is also great because it's a continuation of musical style for Billy.  It's like a mix of Pumpkins and FutureEmbrace-style rock.  That's why if it was on Zeitgeist it would have shown everyone that Billy's moving forward rather than searching for something behind him.  And it's still Pumpkins at the core, with sad lyrics about failed love and waning life.  And the guitar, too, seems old school, with Billy sounding like he's thinking about what James would play on it.  

Man, it would have been great if this song was written for the Old Pumpkins.  Hopefully it will grow into a new life with the New Pumpkins.  I hope they start playing it live soon. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Purr Snickety

My version of Purr Snickety is obviously ripped from a vinyl source, and to be honest, I don't think I'd want to hear a cleaned up version (I also don't know if one exists).  This song is so private and personal, it seems like Billy's singing into his closet so no one ever hears him, ever. It's beautiful and I feel honored that Billy let us hear it (I feel similarly about Soothe, but oddly not the same way about, say, the Machina Acoustic Demos).  The first chord is strum in a way that seems like Billy feels nervous about playing it, but by the time he gets to "all your love won't change," he's feeling confident in what he's playing.

The lyrics are written in a wise-learned-old-man kind of way, which adds to the song's "old" feel. It's the mix of the lyrics and the quiet, awkward nature of how the song's played that make me love the crackles of vinyl on the track.  If it was clean and perfect, I think the song wouldn't really take me to another place.  As it is, I really want to sit down with the song and close my eyes to it.  It's a nice touch that's probably not intended, but I believe in happy accidents.