Twenty five years ago, when someone handed me a copy of Siamese Dream it felt like an essential item for any angry and angst driven teen. Its lyrics dealt with feelings of isolationism, betrayal, and a world who didn't seem to get anyone. A couple of years later that continued with Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness as well. The Smashing Pumpkins became a household name while their angst driven tunes would take them to places beyond what the average alterna rock band would ever get to see.
The Smashing Pumpkins are back, kind of. No, it's not the original lineup with the four faces that played "Cherub Rock" on SNL in 1993, nor is it the lineup that from Machina/The Machines of God. Honestly it's not even the lineup from Zeitgeist. In fact, if you've been keeping track, this is essentially the sixth version of the band.
They're back with a new track, "Solara" that should quickly remind you of "Tarantula" from Zeitgeist. This new lineup of Billy Corgan, Jimmy Chamberlain, James Iha, and Jeff Schroeder is set to embark on a world tour called the Shiny And Oh So Bright tour, though you might see it as more like the Mellon Collie and the Infinite Cash Grab tour. Because what the new song and another "reunion" clearly states is that what got you excited in your teens, doesn't really get you excited in your forties, and that's essential when you're the demographic for a tour of this size.
Reunion tours are supposed to fill you with anticipation. A good example of this would be the Jawbreaker reunion. While yes, Dear You was filled with the same sentiments that Siamese Dream held for upset teens, there's a big difference between the two in that Jawbreaker left touring 20 years ago. It's easy to get excited to catch a band that hasn't been performing for two decades. However, The Smashing Pumpkins have been touring in some shape or fashion for the past 11 years. In fact, if you wanted to, you could have caught them two years ago at Cullen Performance Hall, or in 2015, 2013, or even in 2010 when they performed at Warehouse Live.
When the tour video announcement dropped, complete with the two women who had graced the cover of Siamese Dream as children, it felt like a real reunion was happening. That is, until the name D'arcy Wretsky was noticeably absent from the lineup. In a time when Misfits put their differences aside to reunite, when Guns N' Roses did the same, it makes you wonder why this group couldn't just do the same. Who cares if it's the first time that Jimmy, Billy and James have performed together in 18 years when it's not a full-on reunion?
Of course, there's tons of hearsay and innuendo as to why this reunion didn't happen. What is clear that whatever strife there was between D'arcy and Corgan is far from resolved. Of course, it doesn't really explain why a tour with Melissa Auf der Maur didn't take place either, though I guess that's for either side to explain one day, if anyone cares to hear about it.
Which of course brings us to the new track, "Solara" that this lineup has offered up. It's not bad; in fact it's pretty decent, but why drop it at all? When Pixies reunited they toured their past songs for longer than they were originally together, before Kim Deal left and the band has since dropped two mediocre releases without her. However, for a good while, you had the chance to see all four original members on stages all over the globe. That's not the case here. It certainly isn't enough reason to shell out upwards of $125 to hear in person as well. It's difficult to get excited over a song and a tour when it's not that "once in a lifetime" chance to see the original lineup, or hear the original lineup on the recording. When you hear angst-driven lyrics as a teen, you think: "They get me." When you hear them as an adult you think: "Why are these rock stars upset about the sun?"
Why is this being celebrated at all? Because three guys who used to be in a band together decided to persuade the largest concert promoter on the globe to undertake a reunion tour that isn't really a reunion at all? And that's before you get to the fact that The Smashing Pumpkins were never a band that could fill a modern stadium. Go back to the Mellon Collie era for the only time they played a stadium before or since this tour. The bulk of their touring has been in rooms as small as Rockefeller's Two up to NRG Arena, none of which are close to the 18,000 seat size of the Toyota Center.
Of course, there's also the factor of the band promising to employ a set list from the first five albums, which is also not that big of a reason to catch them this time around. Looking at set lists from the band's 2016 tour, the bulk of the original material that they played was from those albums. In fact, most of the band's tours since coming back in support of Zeitgeist, have held tracks from those first five albums.
It would be more impressive to see them perform music from Machina/The Machines of God at this point, rather than trot out the same songs you've heard with every previous tour. As it stands, fans ready to hear their past music all over again are the ones who should be lining up for tickets.
You can stream the band's new track on all digital platforms. You can see The Smashing Pumpkins with three of the four original members when they touch down in Houston on July 17 at Toyota Center. The all ages show has a support set from Metric. Doors at 6 p.m.; tickets $29 to $125.