With an old drummer and a new bassist, ultimate
survivors of ' alternative rock, the Smashing Pumpkins hit Japan for a nationwide tour
to tout the virtues of their most recent album MACHINA/The Machines of God
The new lineup marks the return of original drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, fired over his drug
habit in 1996 following the heroin overdose of touring keyboardist Jonathan Melvoin, and
the replacement of founding bassist D'Arcy Wretzky with ex-Hole bassist Melissa Auf Der
Maur. With the return of Chamberlin on MACHINA, the Pumpkins also revisit the
bare bones, grinding rock that characterized early albums Gish and Siamese
Dream, following recent forays into electronica on 1998's Adore and
contributions to the movie soundtrack for Batman & Robin.
Formed in 1988 when Billy Corgan met guitarist James Iha at the used record shop he worked
at in Chicago, the pair recruited D'Arcy and Chamberlin in time for their first big gig
opening for Jane's Addiction. Recording their debut single "I Am One," the
Pumpkins became the focus of an intense bidding war, eventually signing with Virgin
Laying down tracks for their first album Gish under the watchful gaze of
alternative rock producer extraordinaire Butch Vig, the Pumpkins were soon the darlings of
the college rock circuit, opening on tour for the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Pearl Jam. Siamese
Dream, a psychedelic concoction of progressive rock, heavy metal and
Beatles-influenced pop, confirmed the Pumpkins' status as alterna-rock anti-heroes on its
release in 1994 as did their headlining the Lollapalooza tour the same year.
The pressures of stardom soon began to take their toll on the band, however, with internal
bickering culminating in Melvoin's death and the firing of Chamberlin in 1996 while
touring to support the mega-platinum Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.
It was about this point that this writer, once an avid fan, lost interest in the fortunes
of the Pumpkins, fed up with the quartet's perpetual poutiness, egotistical preening, and
Corgan's increasingly otherworldly affectations.
But a band that has been on the slide of late has something to prove, and with the return
of Chamberlin and the joyously unfettered rock-with-a-capital- "R" songs of MACHINA,
the Pumpkins seem ready for a - don't say it - comeback.
Smashing Pumpkins play at
Pacifico Yokohama on June 20 and at the Budokan on June 30. See listings for details.