Oct 5, 2020

Zeitgist - The Smashing Pumpkins Album I Like That Apparently No One Else Likes

Being that I was a teenager in the grunge era I feel culturally obligated to like Smashing Pumpkins more than I do.  I’m mildly ashamed of this but most of their stuff is a bit mild for my music tastes.  Shit, most of the music that was popular in the 90’s seems like I should be into it but I was such a metal head back than I completely missed grunge and alternative.  Outside of Primus and maybe Rage Against The Machine I put my nose up at all the Nirvanases and Pearl Jamses.  Like most bands from that time Smashing Pumpkins had some genuine good songs that looking back with 40+ year old ears really was better than I gave it credit for.  While I can’t honestly say I’ve listened to all of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, what I’ve heard from it seemed like that double album effort was a fine work of art.  Apparently they’ve made several albums after this that I couldn’t name if there was a gun to my head.  I’m definitely no authority on this band so take this all as opinion based on limited info.  

The band broke up in around 2000 and out of the ashes 7 years later they emerge with a new album called Zeitgeist.   I think around this time I had a phone that could play MP3s and somehow got (pirated?)  a digital copy of this record when it came out and was really surprised at how raw and rocking it was.  I was blown away with the drumming and thought they got a new drummer because I don’t remember their drummer being so bad ass. I listened to this album hard for a few years after it came out and it’s still in the rotation.  I had gone back from time to time to listen to some of the older stuff and it didn’t really appeal to me.  Whenever I think of this band my first thoughts go to their old videos on MTV, then immediately to this album. 

Art by Shepard Fairey in all it's late 2000's glory

Zeitgeist just had a vibe.  I think they’ve put out a couple albums since then with different band members.  Remember when I tried to be the drummer for Smashing Pumpkins?  That would have been insane. But anyway, everything that comes out I give a listen and it’s always long winded experimental and boring.  Nothing like the octane fueled drum driven Zeitgeist.  Fast forward to today–  They just released a few new tracks off of some epic forthcoming double album and it all sucks.  Like majorly sucks.  It’s all electronic with Billy Corgan singing.  I mean, can you really even call this Smashing Pumpkins?   I hate when bands do this shit.  It’s like Coldplay who was a beautiful organic meat and potatoes rock band.  They got some success and the fucking music industry turds got in their heads and turned them into a Chris Martin solo project.  All the music is so overproduced and computer generated it’s like there’s no band at all.  I fucking hate it.  And this is the new Smashing Pumpkins shit they’ve released so far.  It’s all drum machines and keyboards with Billy singing.  It’s complete trash…which got me nostalgic for Zeitgeist so I fired up my streaming app, YoutubeMusic that also sucks complete ass which is another story… but kind of relevant because one of it’s many flaws is that many popular albums seem to be missing from the platform.  So then I Googled it and apparently Billy Corgan is a psychopath and removed a ton of their stuff from major streaming platforms a couple years ago because he said people didn’t like them.   WTF, Zeitgeist? Really? Fuck you Billy Corgan.   This album shreds!  Apparently this is why the milktoast Smashing Pumpkins fans didn’t like it.  They wanted boring, artsy drog.  My buddy Dave loves everything they do but I just can’t.  Sorry Dave.

I found the Wiki on this album and found out some interesting info which explains why I like it and makes me like it even more knowing more about it.   This was the first time Billy and drummer, Jimmy Chamberlin recorded together since the break up and they were the only original members to return for the reunion and decided to record the album with just the two of them.   One major thing that really hit home for me was that from the onset they insisted on recording live to tape, with no computers or click tracks.  This is pretty unheard of in contemporary music.  You have to realize that this was a big deal.  No one was then or has for that matter done a recording like this since around the mid 80's.  Likely because so many bands these days suck in real life and can't record without the help of editing and computers like they did in the 70's.  It was potentially time consuming, laborious and expensive.    This choice led to arguments with the label and made it hard finding a producer willing to record like this.  Eventually they ended up going with Roy Thomas Baker who goes back all the way to bands like Queen, The Cars and Motley Crue.  I think this, along with Chamberlin having a big hand in the production process made this record so bad ass.  I’m a drummer as you all know, and the drum-driven production is evident to me.  Having Terry Date of Deftones fame contributing in the production as well didn’t hurt in this regard. According to the Wiki it sounds like they didn’t fuck around either.  They went in, recorded all fucking day, every day straight for a week and it was finished.   They even mention Chamberlin nailing a 10 min song in one take and According to the main producer, "everything had sort of an on/off switch. So instead of having various degrees of volumes, we'd have the approach of, 'It's either on or it's not' .  Fuck yes.  Everything about this album just oozes with rock and roll and it’s no surprise why I like it so much.  

Some notable quotes from the Wiki page.
The album is among the heavier releases by Smashing Pumpkins. Corgan attributes this to his perception that "people wanted to hear some energy, that they didn't want us rolling over and crying in our milk".[20] He compared the mindset of the record to that of Gish, which was to make a statement "without trying to make the next The Wall."[20] Regarding the aggressive drumming on the album, Chamberlin observes that "the world is ready for something with some balls behind it”

The album divided the Pumpkins' fanbase. Corgan would later admit, "I know a lot of our fans are puzzled by Zeitgeist. I think they wanted this massive, grandiose work, but you don't just roll out of bed after seven years without a functioning band and go back to doing that".

I just might have to revisit some other albums and see what all the fuss is about.  Pumpkins nerds, knowing I love the album you love to hate, what are some songs/albums you recommend?

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