Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Corganwatch: Let the World Forgive the Past


Friend of the show Starlajo noticed the round-headed rapscallion's reveries recently required some rank revisionism.
Do I belong in the conversation about the best artists in the world? My answer is yes, I do. I’ve been too productive for too long, and despite what anybody wants to strip away from me, I am influential. I am. So all the Pitchforks in the world can try to strip me of every ounce of dignity, but I belong. ... Rather than break up the band, what I should have done is chuck James out. I should have just said to Jimmy, ‘You go to rehab, and we’ll continue, and James, get the fuck out of here.’ Instead, I fell on my sword for James, for what I thought was a friend.
This is basically a morass of tangled half-truths, veiled allusions to things that can't be said plainly, and gratuitous distortion; but then, so was Love, and that was one of the best songs on the record. So let's give this Gordian knot of a pullquote the benefit of the doubt and think like somehow, if properly unwound, it might present a meaning by which we could pull out of Corgan the best music of his life (or at least pull Corgan away from the worst music of our lives). It's parsin' time, motherfuckers!

Do I belong in the conversation about the best artists in the world? My answer is yes, I do.

It's always tricky when people don't use enough qualifiers. Like on the Oscars when Barbra Streisand (why Babs? The world will never know) got up on stage and with the full sanction of the Academy proclaimed Avatar "the most successful movie of all time", which is to say, from now on, all awards in all categories will go to Avatar, because no film has ever succeeded at doing whatever it is that films were made to do as thoroughly as Avatar did? And this will continue to be the case for ever as long as there are films? Unqualified lips sink tributes, Babs! Anyway point being, do you think Billy means musical artists, or does he feel that because he wrote a few poems one time he's up for consideration against Cormac McCarthy in the words-for-our-times stakes, or are we just coming right out and saying that Damien Hirst can suck a dick because Billy Corgan did the music for a car ad? Let us assume the latter, because when wondering whether Billy Corgan is making quite a self-aggrandizing statement or a "Bigger than Jesus" statement, Billy Corgan is unlikely to be saying Billy Corgan is just okay.

I’ve been too productive for too long,

Agreed,

and despite what anybody wants to strip away from me, I am influential. I am.

This is true. However, it will become problematic. For now, though, let us give Billy the disputed My Chemical Romance; let us extend to him the olive branch of Silversun Pickups while we gently take from him the resurgence of My Bloody Valentine. Let us cough at the acrimony of knowing we give Billy Corgan too much as we extend to him the post-Black Parade incarnation of Emo (which is to say, the most fun one), and let us assure him that all the cantankerous 30-year-olds in the world cannot take away what beautiful anarchy he has loosed upon the world. We must give Billy Corgan everything to which he feels he is entitled, and then some; we must render unto Corgan anything that Corgan could possibly think belongs to Corgan.

So all the Pitchforks in the world can try to strip me of every ounce of dignity, but I belong.

It's still weird to hear Billy Corgan using terms ("Pitchfork"; "Youtube"; "Zeitgeist") that come from the 2000s. Like, does it even make sense that Billy Corgan lives in a world where 9/11 happened? Not really, eh?

Rather than break up the band, what I should have done is chuck James out.

This implies that kicking Jimmy Chamberlin out of the Smashing Pumpkins in 1996 was what broke them up. As we in reality know, of course, the band survived long enough for Chamberlin to rejoin, so that Iha could quit, which did break up the band, in 2001. So it's like some sort of 12 Monkeys thing where it doesn't matter whether or not you did something, because fate corrects itself and no free will and so forth. However, while Billy Corgan and Jimmy Chamberlin are two great guys who have loads of awesome fun, their separation produced The Aeroplane Flies High (Turns Left, Looks Right), which any sensible person would have to place among the top ten of the Smashing Pumpkins songs ever; and which any sensible person would have to realize was a song all about Billy Corgan breaking up with the love of his life, Jimmy Chamberlin. It is the Brokeback Mountain of songs about dudes who are ostensibly real and ostensibly did not fuck[1]. So it is fine that Billy Corgan wishes that this time never happened, but this does not extent to saying that his work would have been better had it not. Billy Corgan is conflating his personal happiness with the quality of his artistic output, and that is a grave failure of oversight. If you hated it on the Island, it's fine that you wanted to leave; but if we see an episode where your plane touched down at LAX just fine and the first thing you do is record Loki Cat, excuse us for wanting to see you battle the Smoke Monster some more.

I should have just said to Jimmy, ‘You go to rehab, and we’ll continue, and James, get the fuck out of here.’ Instead, I fell on my sword for James, for what I thought was a friend.

Let me just admit that it feels quite petty to pick apart the statements of a guy I have never met as he discusses regrets stemming from the hardest thing in his artistic life and all I can do is wonder whether I would have got to listen to Tear if things went down differently. That is out there. But then, I sang Billy Corgan Happy Birthday, so he owes me. Now then.

What Corgan is doing here is concocting some sort of ridiculous thing whereby he is the victim (surprise) of his own virtuousness (surprise, he's a nice guy) and, see above, his artistic output suffers because he was a nice guy and he finishes last. Let us pretend he is correct. Let us pretend that Billy Corgan's work is not clearly predicated on the spiritual and emotional schisms within his soul, and let us pretend that "Billy Corgan happy" is not dire anathema to the best work of his life. (This hardly makes him unique among artists, but then Billy Corgan belongs in the conversation about the best artists in the world, so that works fine).

The problem here is that when we consider our generous concessions (see above, My Chem etc) made to Corgan's desire to be seen as influential, his quote becomes a self-defeating statement. EITHER Billy Corgan missed out on the chance to be all that he could be and now nobody remembers what a great band he was in and all because he made a virtuous choice and was punished for it; OR Billy Corgan is an influential guy and some of today's best rock music for what it's worth owes a debt to him and all because he had a shitty time in the 1990s what with Courtney leaving him for Kurt and Trent never returning his admiration and everyone lumping him in with the Singles crowd when all he ever did was write a song for them and oh by the way the dead keyboardist thing.

This evening my girlfriend asked me if, if I could go back in time, I would kill Hitler. Obviously, I wouldn't (you know, because if time travel is possible then its proliferation is inevitable and thus Hitler has survived more high-tech assassination attempts than Billy Corgan has recorded spiteful songs simultaneously addressing God, heroin and Courtney Love). But I hope Billy Corgan never gets a time machine.

[1] I feel that by waiting this long to make a "ha ha those guys really love each other" joke, toothpaste has come out of the lamp which can never be put back in. My apologies.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Please forgive me for responding to a 2+ year old post.

Did Billy every explain why he supposedly should have fired James? What exactly was the problem (this is an open question)?

If history is any indication, we probably have to look no further than Mr. Corgan himself. He is known to be a control freak, and is quite adept at alienating others with his self-aggrandizement.

I don't see how firing James and keeping Jimmy would have helped the band. James constituted a lot of the Pumpkins's sound. SP were not known for their outstanding drum solos, and Chamberlin was hardly a charismatic presence on stage.

I agree that continuing the tour after Jimmy's firing was a mistake (the show at the Cow Palace sucked enough to consume a good portion of all the manure ever excreted in said venue). But in the long run, what would it have accomplished? Perhaps SP without Mr. Iha would have resembled in 1995 what it does now: a largely forgotten band which most people think no longer exists.