Saturday, November 03, 2007
The Assassination of The Smashing Pumpkins by the Coward Billy Corgan
Last week, I received an e-mail promoting The Smashing Pumpkins' latest "release," a re-issue of "Zeitgeist," which came out only three months ago. You may recall from my RELEVANT review that the original "Zeitgeist" itself was issued in five different formats through separate retailers, each disc holding one "exclusive" track each. It was a horrendous money-grab to try and milk die-hard fans for more album sales.
This is even worse. The new re-issue collects a couple of those exclusive tracks, plus adds one more unreleased song and throws in a DVD documentary (as if I want to learn more about this cheapened "reunion")—all exclusively at Buy More, er, I mean Best Buy. I cannot believe how far Corgan has fallen in less than a decade. Remember, in 2000 this same man released the band's then-final album, "MACHINA II," for FREE to select fans with his blessing to distribute it—again, for FREE—throughout the Internet. Now in his vainglorious return, he's bilking those same fans for all they're worth. I bought one copy of "Zeitgeist" (the one from Target), listened to it enough times only to give a fair review, and haven't touched it since. The album sucks, and I'm glad I haven't plunked down any more dough to see this bastardized version of a once great band on tour—Corgan doesn't deserve any more of my money.
Contrast this Pumpkins fiasco with Wilco, one of the most fan-friendly bands on the planet. Wilco is re-releasing its latest album, "Sky Blue Sky," in Europe with an extra EP of live and studio cuts that weren't on the original. But here's the thing: If you've already bought the CD (which, of course, I have), all you have to do is stick it in your computer, go to Wilco's web site, and you can download the EP for FREE. (They did the exact same thing with 2004's "A Ghost Is Born.")
Not only that, but on the most recent leg of Wilco's North American tour, they actually allowed fans to send in song requests via the Internet, then did their best to play some of those requests at their shows. Of course they still stuck with their basic set for the "SBS" tour, but if you check out the recent setlists over at WilcoBase, it's plain to see they honored several of those entries. Tweedy said now that the band finally has settled into a stable lineup, this has been a great way to force his relatively new bandmates to go back and learn some of Wilco's older material; and, of course, there's the added benefit of interacting with the audience.
I know making records is a business, and I'm certainly not one of those DIY maniacs. The term "sellout" is so overused, it's basically meaningless at this point. But you couldn't find two clearer examples here of how to treat your fans with respect, or how to screw them out of every last penny. Not surprisingly, the band that gets it right time and time again is still artistically viable; the band that didn't is nothing more than a rehashed shadow of its former greatness treading on past successes.