On Thursday, Smashing Pumpkins are expected to confirm the release of a new album featuring most of the band’s “classic” lineup, along with a corresponding tour. If that happens, there’s a good chance that the first new song since 2000 featuring Billy Corgan, Jimmy Chamberlain, possibly James Iha, and definitely not D’arcy Wretzky will be released.
How exciting … right? Look, I loved Smashing Pumpkins in their prime, and if the tour comes to my town I will be strongly tempted to attend with several-thousand fellow aging Gen-Xers and a few younger, rubbernecking ’90s alt-rock enthusiasts. But the most exciting “release” to come out of the Smashing Pumpkins lately were those text messages that D’arcy shared with the world on Tuesday that appear to confirm her assertion that Corgan invited his prodigal bassist to participate and then disinvited her when it proved to be inconvenient. A recent interview expounds on the subject.
I don’t mean that as a diss — those texts were incredible! But spicy screenshots are as close as this band is getting to Siamese Dream in 2018.
There is no way that a new Pumpkins album or tour can compare to the behind-the-scenes drama that has already unfolded. Several days’ worth of news items about Corgan and D’arcy sniping at each other has conjured the band’s original mid-’90s spirit better than any collection of “Cherub Rock” retreads. It’s like no time has passed since I read the Pumpkins’ 1994 Rolling Stone cover story, in which it was revealed that Billy and D’arcy met outside of a rock club, and his first words to her were, “You’re full of sh*t.”
It’s unclear if the original incarnation of Smashing Pumpkins is still capable of producing good music. But in terms of being a trainwreck, they’ve still got it, baby.
I spent a good 10 minutes yesterday painstakingly combing through the texts like I was Robert Mueller studying Donald Trump Jr.’s emails. I understand that most people don’t have the time or inclination to sift through every stinky sock lurking in this gloriously ludicrous band’s dirty laundry. Personally, I would be happy if the Smashing Pumpkins reunion tour consisted only of Billy Corgan and D’arcy exchanging testy texts on stage. But not everyone is a fiend for mellon collie intra-band warfare.
So, for the sake of serious music journalism, I have taken it upon myself to condense the most masterful display of slowly escalating passive-aggression between intimates this side of Phantom Thread into a more digestible narrative.
Billy: We want you in the band, even though it will be slightly annoying to include you!
D’arcy: Sounds great! I’m gonna get a third opinion on my injured shoulder!
Billy: Great! Can’t wait to see you! Seriously, we can’t wait!
Billy: This could be as big as GNR’s tour if we don’t blow it. By the way, you will probably be the reason we blow it. But that’s cool!
D’arcy: I’m on my way!
Billy: No need to pressure yourself! Get well! Don’t come!
D’arcy: I’ll be there in no time!
Billy: Jesus, we don’t need you.
D’arcy: F*ck you.
Billy: F*ck you.
A band reunion most accomplish two objectives simultaneously for two very different audiences. For older people who witnessed the band’s glory years firsthand, a reunion must create the illusion that time has stood still. The band members must be in shape and maintain the proper hair color. (In Corgan’s case, his dome needs to be powdered to the correct shade of Nosferatu pale.) The musicians are also required to play the songs with energy and at least 75 percent of their prior power. This justifies the high cost of a reunion-show ticket, and it also makes these audience members forget that they are, in fact, ancient enough to see their favorite childhood band on a middle-aged cash-in tour.
For the younger audience that did not witness the band’s glory years, a reunion has to feel like an authentic extension of the band’s narrative. The band must resemble what’s been imagined from album covers and vintage music videos, while at the same time spinning that mythology forward in some meaningful way for people who are experiencing it in the flesh for the first time.
Incredibly, Smashing Pumpkins have succeeded on both accounts because the reunion appears to have already failed. It almost doesn’t matter at this point if D’arcy — who famously didn’t play Siamese Dream, because Billy Corgan made sure it was “famously known” in every profile of the band — is part of the Pumpkins or not. She’s part of the reunion story, which might be preferable to hearing her white-knuckle those rusty bass-lines in arenas and large theaters.
Forget the actual tour — having D’arcy again as a foil to Billy Corgan in the media is far more entertaining. Any day where I can read about these two lunatics feuding truly is the greatest day I have ever known.