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Instant Expert: Smashing Pumpkins

Smashing Pumpkins Instant Expert
Jonathan Wood, Getty Images
You’ve seen them at parties, lurking in the corner, waiting to engage in battle disguised as conversation. They’re indie rock know-it-alls, and no matter what band or musician you mention, they’ve got an opinion — strong and almost certainly negative — ready to ram down your throat. With Instant Expert, we offer preparation for these very situations. Each Thursday, in advance of your weekend carousing, we pick an artist and provide a quickie career overview, highlighting both prevailing critical opinions and the inevitable contrarian counterarguments. Even if you’re completely unfamiliar with the music, you’ll be able to bluff your way through and defend your indie cred. This week: the Smashing Pumpkins.


Smashing Pumpkins
Evan Agostini, Getty Images

The Gist

 
 

The Smashing Pumpkins formed in Chicago at the tail end of the 1980s, fusing modern-rock adventurism with classic-rock muscle. Unlike so many of his alt-rock peers, frontman Billy Corgan embraced the guitar wankery favored by 1970s dinosaurs. The original quartet began disintegrating after its third album, 1995's 'Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness,' the Pumpkins' only No. 1. Since then, Corgan has resurrected the group with revolving-door musicians for a series of records -- including 2012's 'Oceania' -- with varying results.

 
Smashing Pumpkins Siamese Dream

Critical Consensus

 
 

It all came together for the Smashing Pumpkins on their second album, 1993's terrific 'Siamese Dream.' From the opening 'Cherub Rock' and 'Today''s hazy dreamscapes to the delicate 'Disarm' and 'Soma''s guitar pyrotechnics, Corgan never crafted a better set of songs.

 
Smashing Pumpkins Gish

Contrarian Counterargument

 
 

The 1991 debut album 'Gish' is filled with goop-free guitar workouts that would later be compromised by things like melody and discipline. You want to hear the Smashing Pumpkins at their untethered best? Listen to the six-and-a-half-minute 'Rhinoceros.'

 
Smashing Pumpkins Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness

Counter-counterargument

 
 

The Pumpkins' sprawling 1995 double-CD opus 'Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness' shoots for the stars and blows your mind along the way. Corgan's last hurrah.

 
Silversun Pickups
Autumn Dewilde

Whatever You Do, Don’t Say This

 
 

Who needs the Smashing Pumpkins when you got Silversun Pickups?

 

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