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The Smashing Pumpkins return to mild public interest. What does this mean for alternative rock?

Smashing Pumpkins (Credit : Getty)
(Photo Credit : Getty)

The Smashing Pumpkins return with a reunited original line-up and a new single “Solara”. Public interest for the  band that gave the world the albums Siamese Dream and mellon Collie and the infinite sadness has been tempered at best. Is this a reflection of the quality of their new material? Or, is the world losing interest with the romance of 1990’s alternative rock?

You have to give it to the Smashing Pumpkins. Not a lot of bands return in a reunited form with much ambition about new music. But ambition has never been something that lead singer and guitarist Billy Corgan has lacked.

Billy Corgan, lead singer of the Smashing Pumpkins

The Smashing Pumpkins of the 1990’s were an alternative rock band able to offer hit singles like Today, Disarm and 1979, big selling tours and hyper inflated concept albums selling millions of copies. Little has changed about Corgan’s vision.

In fact Corgan’s recent albums under the Smashing Pumpkins moniker were a similar affair. Much of the old sound and stake were in place. It looked like the only thing missing for the band’s fans to be truly happy were the band’s original line-up.

Today Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan has finally found common ground with guitarist James Iha. The band’s drummer Jimmy Chamberlain, in and out of the band for years, also returns. Given previous statements made by Billy Corgan it is a surprise few would have expected.

The Smashing Pumpkins – 1979, classic rock single of the 90’s

The only piece missing is original bassist D’arcy Wretzky. She was a member of the band on the majority of classic Smashing Pumpkins albums. Her replacement coincided with a dip in sales for the band. Understandably fans  of the era of album starting with Gish  feel an emotional connection to the bassist.

Smashing Pumpkins’ Siamese Dream was a masterwork for its time. Mellon Collie and the Inifinite Sadness was grunge’s attempt at a huge artistic statement. The band’s other albums included a number of good singles.

James Iha, guitarist of the Smashing Pumpkins and A Perfect CircleBut the band leaves on tour with 3/4 original Smashing Pumpkins members. On bass, fans get Jeff Schroeder a member of the band for recent years. It should be noted this is the first time the band has not featured a female on bass guitar, arguably an anathema to the band’s fans until recently.

The Smashing Pumpkins‘ tour titled Oh So Bright tour has garnered less interest then one may have expected. This has at least been the case in the U.S. Things may well chance internationally. After all, the Smashing Pumpkins’ albums have sold in the millions all across the world.

However, it is perhaps a paradigm shift. Alternative bands successful in the 1990’s have long been leaders of the rock touring circuit. The myth of alt rock of the 90’s has been very popular. But perhaps general audiences have finally grown tired of this.

To their great credit the Smashing Pumpkins’ Solara has been released as a new single from the band. It’s a song befitting of a larger review. But suffice to say, it’s a good song, although few would argue it is the Pumpkins by numbers.

“Are they all (touring tickets) selling as well as I would like them to sell? No,” Billy Corgan, the Smashing Pumpkins singer admits. Yes, the world may well be a better place with a 3/4 reunited lineup of the Smashing Pumpkins in it.

But perhaps the time of nostalgia for the alternative rock heroes of old is done. The band is fighting for relevancy and with better material on their hands they may well succeed to garner more attention from a newer audience.

Alternative rock has changed and audiences are demanding new, good music to fit onto their playlist. Their demanding good shows and great songs to spending money on touring tickets. Nostalgia can only go so far.

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