Message to Smashing Pumpkin Billy Corgan: You are not God.
It’s admirable, in a way, that Billy Corgan wants to cling to rock’s bombast while all around others are letting it go. With his band, the Smashing Pumpkins, Corgan has just released “Machina: The Machines of God,” a stadium-size, overblown, drunk-on-guitars attempt to capture the true vastness and grandiosity of rock ‘n’ roll — or at least some semblance thereof. Then again, maybe the return to bombast has more to do with the fact that the band’s last effort, the wispy and electronic “Adore” (1998), failed to chart as spectacularly as the previous Smashing Pumpkins CDs.
For the decade-old Pumpkins, this recording marks in many ways a return to its beginnings. Jimmy Chamberlin, who was kicked out in 1995 for drug problems, returns to give the band the forceful drumming it had not had since his departure. The album also features original bassist D’Arcy Wretzky, who was recently replaced by Hole bassist Melissa Auf Der Maur. Since leaving the band, Wretzky has been arrested and pleaded guilty to drug possession.
All of the shuffling aside, the constant throughout the Pumpkins’ recording career is the superego that is Corgan. The front man has never been circumspect about sharing his belief that his band will save rock. But on this new record, he has even bigger plans: saving himself, saving his friends and — who knows — maybe even saving humanity.
It’s a monumentally presumptuous and preposterous task that is almost as inflated as the music itself. On song after song, Corgan references himself and God almost interchangeably. When he isn’t reinventing himself as a deity, he’s playing the role of martyr.
“Let me die/For rock ‘n’ roll/Let me die/Save my soul,” he sings on “Heavy Metal Machine,” a guitar-fueled, crunchy echo of Neil Young’s “My My, Hey Hey (Out of the Blue).” And on “Sacred and Profane,” Corgan again imagines himself as a vessel for all of his brokenhearted, “feedback scarred/devotionless” followers: “You’re all a part of me now/And if I fall/You’re all a part of me now/In the sun/You’re all a part of me now/You’re all a part of me now.”
Where Corgan’s curious belief system will deliver them is never quite explained. Yet despite these obnoxious spiritual despot fantasies, Corgan and bandmates do create some better-than-average rock songs — though certainly not strong enough rock upon which to build a religion.
“Try” and “The Age of Innocence” are irrepressibly catchy, have great hooks and boast lyrics that are a tad more subdued and comprehensible than the average Corgan fare. There’s also “This Time,” a blistering anthem addressing friendship that is all the more poignant considering the various tragedies and travails that have befallen the band. All three songs probably deserve to be hits. But too much of the rest of the album bogs down in the murk of swirling guitars and Corgan’s incessantly inscrutable, self-worshipping lyrics.
At times on this new record, his familiar whining snarl begins to sound like a rock star clichi. It is as if he is simply trying too hard to fit the part. Adoration begets emulation and the result is an unfortunate, unintended self-lampoon. Setting out to save rock ‘n’ roll is presumptuous enough. Saving humanity with rock ‘n’ roll is just ridiculous.
More Related Stories
- Cannes: Directing 101 with James Franco
- Welcome to the jungle: The definitive oral history of '80s metal
- Burt Bacharach opens up on daughter's suicide
- Steven Spielberg to produce "Halo" television series
- Amazon set to launch fine-art gallery
- Twitter torches Dan Brown's "Inferno"
- Brad Pitt keeps breaking his silence on how boring marriage to Jennifer Aniston was
- Lars von Trier's "Nymphomaniac" to use porn star body doubles
- New Beyoncé single leaked
- The sweet, sure to be short-lived "The Goodwin Games"
- Damon Lindelof admits barely-clothed scene in "Star Trek" was "gratuitous"
- Justin Timberlake: I'm a mediocre folk singer!
- Ray Manzarek, founding member of The Doors, dies at 74
- Beware of book blurbs
- Did a Salon excerpt ruin Penn Jillette's chance to win "Celebrity Apprentice"?
- Zach Galifianakis to take formerly homeless woman to "Hangover 3" premiere
- Seth MacFarlane will not host Oscars again
- "SNL's" uncomfortable Garner/Affleck moment
- "Celebrity Apprentice" finale ratings hit a new low
- Worst National Anthem fails
- The truth in Kanye's anti-prison rap
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11