Billy Corgan vs. Pavement

Ha ha ha. Sole remaining Pumpkin Billy Corgan just shot off a series of tweets dissing Pavement, calling them sell outs who “represent the death of the alternative dream.” So awesome.

“Just found out SP is playing with Pavement in Brazil. It’s gonna be 1 of those New Orleans type funerals. I say that because they represent the death of the alternative dream, and we follow with the affirmation of life. Funny how those who pointed the big finger of ‘sell out’ are the biggest offenders now…yawn. They have no love. By the way, we’ll be the band up there NEW songs because we have the love xx.”

Does Billy really believe in “the alternative dream”? Or is he just being ironic? Whatever.

When asked for comment, Stephen Malkmus replied, “I don’t understand what they mean and I could really give a fuck.”


Billy Corgan vs. Pavement

Video: Pavement – “Range Life”

Pavement: iTunes, Amazon, Insound, eMusic, wiki

Smashing Pumpkins: iTunes, Amazon, Insound, eMusic, wiki

46 thoughts on “Billy Corgan vs. Pavement”

  1. Well, everyone and their mother–including Pavement–disparagingly labeled Billy Corgan and co. careerists, which, of course, they were. But Pavement portrayed themselves as above that sort of thing. Yet, here they are doing the big money reunion tour. So regardless of how one feels about Smashing Pumpkins and how Corgan has conducted the band’s affairs, Billy: 1 Pavement: 0.

  2. I had a brief strange music binge on Pavement back in the day. Lasted about 6 months. For the life of me I can’t remember why the fuck I bought all those CDs.

    Billy, though, is a fantastic train wreck. Sometimes he says the shit nobody else will say. Sometimes he says shit nobody should say.

    Frankly, I like my rock stars half crazy. That’s rock n roll. It wouldn’t be the same without it.

  3. Kiko, how much of that was Pavement portraying themselves that way, vs. self-loving indie fans projecting that onto them? I’m willing to bet that if Pavement could have filled 4 times as many seats at their shows 15 years ago, they’d have done it.

    As for Corgan, I went to an SP show many years back a fan, but came out thinking Billy Corgan was the most self-aggrandizing twat I’d ever seen on a stage. And that’s saying quite a bit.

  4. What I find funny is that BOTH have seemingly bought into this idea that capitalizing on a “moment” (meaning, a time when people want to see you so badly they’re willing to PAY for it) is somehow shameful. Yes, Pavement made fun of a lot of those bands in “Range Life” and are now on a reunion tour. Who was the bigger fool? 1994 Pavement or 2010 Pavement…and who is the bigger douche, 1994 Billy Corgan or 2010 Billy Corgan? I am guessing one is a flat line and the other is rising.

  5. Scotty, I agree: as befits a ’90s icon, Corgan alternately “keeps it real” or real crazy. Refreshing, indeed.

    Jonas, it was probably both. Pavement came from a scene that scoffed at the careerist aspirations of a band like Smashing Pumpkins, and as such would act and speak accordingly. I would venture Malkmus and co. would’ve turned down the big shows then but now, as middle aged men who realize posturing doesn’t pay bills, mortgages or fund retirement plans, they’re more than willing.

    Derek, I don’t think “BOTH have seemingly bought into this idea that capitalizing on a ‘moment’ (meaning, a time when people want to see you so badly they’re willing to PAY for it) is somehow shameful.” Corgan is criticizing Pavement–and by extension, the indie, hoiler-than-thou, Pitchfork-worshiping crowd–who always looked down on this sort of thing. He’s saying “look at me, the crass, careerist douchebag, going out there giving people my new music, while over there the aloof, principled, indie standard bearers are cashing in.” In other words, he’s pointing out Pavement’s hypocrisy.

    As for Corgan’s douchiness, I’ve spoken to quite a few low level people at the NY offices of labels (Caroline, Virgin) who dealt with SP back in the day–and that don’t like their music one bit–who have nothing but glowing remarks when referring to their professional dealings with Corgan and the ban, fwiw. Not that it means much but I thought I’d throw it out there.

    Speaking of which…for the record, while I am a fan of the Pumpkins–even bought the Zwan record!–I happen to like Pavement. But I’ve had enough of dogmatic indie rockers not being called out on their hypocrisy.

  6. The only thing I would add to this debate, not knowing either man beyond their interviews (and in Billy’s case, public tirades), is that Stephen Malkmus probably doesn’t give a shit what any of us think about him and this tour, and Billy Corgan most certainly does give a shit about what we think of him. Not sure which is better.

  7. That’s exactly right, jaimoe0. From what I understand is that much of this Pavement tour is about everyone else besides Malkmus. He was the one that pulled the plug on the band originally and, after years of mounting pressure from outside promoters combined with former band members tapping him on the shoulder saying “You know, this is an awful lot of money that we can really use…” he finally caved and agreed to the reunion. I think it became more about helping out these band members instead of considering what you or I think about his decision to tour again.

    To put that in perspective-I don’t see Corgan calling up D’Arcy or Iha these days, looking out for their financial well-being and the fact that even Chamberlin isn’t present speaks volumes about Corgan.

  8. My point is, regardless of whether Malkmus is doing this for noble reasons–like Pete Townshend vis-a-vis John Entwhistle–the fact remains he’ll catch little or no flack for doing what many in his circle would consider crass otherwise. If Corgan were to reunite the original SP for whatever reason he’d get no small amount of cynical snark lobbied his way. (Hello, double standard!)

    Having said that, with Jimmy Chamberlain onboard he was able to deflect some criticism for operating the way he has in the past. But with Jimmy’s departure that ship has sailed and, most disappointingly, he also lost a key collaborator whose playing was an undeniably important element of the band’s sound.

  9. I think if Corgan reunited the original lineup, people would go apeshit and it would create a major reassessment of the Smashing Pumpkins’ entire catalog. As it stands now, they were just a mainstream band from the 90s “Alternative Nation” whose singer is milking the name for all he can. If he toured with Iha, Darcy, and Chamberlain, people would be go nuts. Seriously, who of us reading this would even cross the street to see the current lineup? But wouldn’t it be cool to see the real band?

    As for the entire concept of “selling out,” it seems the only people who give a shit about any of that anymore are grouchy old fogeys. The kids certainly don’t care.

  10. The original line-up would certainly get some traction and put Corgan into bigger venues. And Jake is right about the “selling out” concept, a term coined by the actions of bands like SP.

    History lesson: I still have the demo cassette of Smashing Pumpkins. It sounds great, btw, and I found it in a pile of cassettes after we’d gotten the first single on “Limited Potential” or whatever the label was. The single caught my ear and someone associated the band name with that old cassette we received months prior. Then we received the debut on Caroline. Then it became Virgin for Siamese Dream. In the middle of all this began the claims that all of this was nothing but a marketing ploy to build credibility. That there really wasn’t a label in Chicago called “Limited Potential” and I’m too lazy right now to search about it. The people stirring the pot were convinced that everything was funded by Virgin, who were already feeding Smashing Pumpkins by the time we received that first single. Who knows and (as Jake correctly points out) who cares. The only thing that doesn’t make sense-and it’s a character flaw that has been present with Corgan ever since-is why not just fess up to it? If your goal is to have your music out on a major anyway, then don’t agree to a marketing plan that suggests you’ve worked your way through the indies to get there. I never questioned Corgan or the band’s work to get to Gish which is a swell rock album, btw-but to fib the truth to add some additional “cred” is embarassing. Again, I don’t know if any of the accusations from back in the day were true, I’m just repeating things we all thought were so important back in the day. Blame SST records for that, them and Dischord. Those labels are like having a young veteran trying to argue with a WWII veteran; you just won’t be able to top their sacrifice.

  11. Seriously though, guys: what about this whole “alternative dream” business? That’s a head-scratcher, no?

    And Pavement is responsible for killing it? How? With ironic detachment?

  12. Jake, You will NEVER see the original Pumpkins all on stage together again. Never ever ever ever.

    Iha is in A Perfect Circle now and gets a lot of producing gigs. He’s sort of like the Grunge era’s Marr, hopping from one band to another when he feels like it and working behind the scenes on a lot of other projects.

    Chamberlain got booted from (or quit the band) again a year or so ago.

    Darcy lives on a horse farm in South Haven and probably won’t ever be in a band again. She claims that she doesn’t have the mental or physical fortitude to handle touring and such and is 100% checked-out of the music scene. Her husband died last year. I will admit, though, that an interview with her would be a hell of a scoop, since she’s done NONE since she left the band. If anybody wants to take a drive to South Haven with me I’m down with trying to get an interview with her.

  13. I know where Malkmus lives and saw Sp at the Reptile House in Grand Rapids (thanks, Rudy). Beat THAT for indie cred, poseurs!

  14. I don’t think you can count that one. My impression of that phone call is that she never thought she would end up on air. She called in inquiring about a Silversun Pickups song. The DJ put her on live and then did a crap job of “interviewing” her. At one point he starts trying to cut her off and end the call.

    She always used to come across as a bit spaced-out in interviews, though. Not like Billy’s diareah of the mouth.

  15. I just saw Pavement in October; out of three times seeing them, this was the only show of theirs I enjoyed, and the only one where Malkmus seemed to enjoy playing the rock star. And I was reminded that, unlike the Smashing Pumpkins, they’re a band that just has a LOT of great, unique songs, and everyone who goes to see them knows every whacked word of them. Songs like “Cut Your Hair” stand as indictments of bands like Billy’s, put together from “serious ONLY!” musicians-wanted ads with numerous discussions of what to wear and how to look. I don’t mean to take away from Billy’s achievements but I certainly don’t share his view of his music. (Awesome guitar player–please don’t sing!!!!)

    Billy does not get that his band has always been way more ‘Grand Funk Railroad’ than ‘Led Zeppelin’–a band that ultimately should just put out that greatest hits package and thank their stars for the run they had. It burns him that Malkmus gets props as a heavy cat while Billy’s at home waiting for…what? Jann Wenner to call and induct him in the RnR Hall of Fame, or something.

    I kind of like how Corgan is so political about it. As the archetypal slacker-rockers, Pavement is the avatar for all the damn indie bands who can’t be bothered. I like that Corgan pines for the old days of Double Gatefold Symphonic Opuses that were Supposed to Matter. And if he had a foil–say, someone who knew how to sing and write lyrics–he might have gotten there.

  16. I dig Corgan’s lyrics. When The Pumpkins’ music is 100% his lyrics work.

    Corgan obviously can’t let go of the 90s. He feels that his band and others like Nirvana had a chance to somehow wrest rock n roll away from the labels and rewright the rules. He’s publicly stated that he “blew it.” But I always got the impression that his idea of taking control of the business end of things would have looked like the Labels’ version, except with him in charge. What’s interesting is that NOW the Pumpkins are actually an INDIE band. He’s releasing EPs online, doing short tours several times each year and recording on his own time exactly what he wants to record.

    Going back, though, and reading about their recording sessions for “Melon Collie” you get the impression of an era in rock that’s almost completely gone. When labels threw big money into recording and production and a band like his could spend a year or more in the studio recording 40 or 50 tracks.

  17. “Going back, though, and reading about their recording sessions for “Melon Collie” you get the impression of an era in rock that’s almost completely gone. When labels threw big money into recording and production and a band like his could spend a year or more in the studio recording 40 or 50 tracks.”

    That’s not really a bad thing.

  18. Scotty, where could I read up on the Mellon Collie sessions? I have enough residual affection for that album (and certainly for that era) that I would love to find out what the dynamic of the band was back then. Think: not only did they release Mellon Collie and the Aeroplane Flies High box set, they got away with it!! Meaning, there was enough commercial justification for doing such excessive albums.

  19. Um, Todd, not to get pointy-headed again, but there very much so was a Chicago-based label called Limited Potential. Not only did they have the first ever Pumpkins record, they also released records by Poster Children and Triple Fast Action before anyone else had. It was run by a fella who went under the nom-de-label of Mike Potential. He used to have a website giving a wonderful history of the label, but it’s no longer up. I actually have a copy of the TFA single, the very last thing that Limited Potential released. Also, it would appear that Bloodshot Records logo sort of pays tribute to the Limited Potential logo. You might be telling us about a rumor that floated about it during those days (in either case, please don’t read into this any tone of sarcasm), but trust me, there was indeed a Limited Potential record label. Just sayin’…

  20. Guilty as charged. The little bit of knowledge I have in this world I like to show off. It helps assuage my deep-seated insecurities!!!

  21. If your goal is to have your music out on a major anyway, then don’t agree to a marketing plan that suggests you’ve worked your way through the indies to get there.

    Was that truly feasible at the time? How much leverage did he have at that point? Have we forgotten the flack artists that weren’t mainstream used to get for signing with a major? We can now call SP a mainstream act but if we take a look back at 1993, the charts were littered with the likes of Michael Bolton, Garth Brooks, Eric Clapton, Billy Ray Cyrus, Kenny G, Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson, Van Hagar, etc. It’s not like SP were comparable to Bolton and co.

  22. Good point, Kiko. Of course, even back in the day, not everyone saw them as much of an alternative…as Steve Albini’s hilarious letter to the Chicago Reader’s Bill Wyman in 1994 attests: Three Pandering Sluts and Their Music-Press Stooge.

    “Smashing Pumpkins are REO Speedwagon (stylistically appropriate for the current college party scene, but ultimately insignificant).”

    It’s fun to read that whole thing once a year or so.

  23. Murph, I don’t know if there’s a single definitive Mellon Collie story out there to read. I’ve poked around on the intertubes and read the band’s wiki page, which is lengthy, as well as the wikis for the album and individual singles. Corgan also keeps a live journal online which includes entries going back to the mid 90s, which I liked to above. There are also two bulletin boards that get a lot of SP fan talk/argument (which sometimes leads to interesting nuggets of inof). One of them is the “official SP boards.” Which you can access through the band’s (Billy’s) website, and the other is at the netphoria.org website, which is probably the largest SP fan site.

  24. “If he toured with Iha, Darcy, and Chamberlain, people would be go nuts. Seriously, who of us reading this would even cross the street to see the current lineup? But wouldn’t it be cool to see the real band?”

    Yeah. For the record, that’s the line-up I saw (in 1996), and the music itself was fantastic…nearly every song was played at the tone of volume of some of the fatter songs on Gish, still my favorite of their albums…3 encores…nice contact high. That part was great. He was just annoying as fuck every time he talked.

  25. Ah, Mr. Albini…we’ve been expecting you. I knew that a conversation in which “selling out” was mentioned your pointy little head would make an appearance somehow. Please Jake, let’s not bring this insufferable, marginally talented, self-loathing twat into the conversation. His comparison of SP to REO reminds me of every lazy critic who irresponsibly refers to Darius Rucker (aka Hootie) when encountering a male singer/songwriter of color. Ugh.

    As we all know, “alternative” was the new term for college radio acts, and the ones on major labels frequently had their authenticity questioned. But they were in fact the flip side to the dying hair bands and mainstream acts I mentioned above.

  26. It strains my mind to come up with an insult as horrible as likening a band to REO Speedwagon. Let’s keep this shit civil and leave vicious slurs like that for bands like Stone Temple Pilots.

    SP is in NO WAY even remotely comparable to REO. WTF, Jake. Why would you do something like that?

    Dude, not cool!

  27. I’d side with Albini on that one, particularly since he compares the two “stylistically.” It’s easy to forget that REO worked every college campus and large bar in the Midwest for years. It wasn’t until they started playing the game with the label when they were rewarded a major hit (cue Pointy Head Murph with the Hit Men reference). They were a big rock sounding band that a bunch of people liked, but how many bands do you know of that cite Tuna Fish as an influence? Similarly, Albini is betting that the same will be true of SP in a few years: a collegiate favorite back in the day that sold some records, but one that really didn’t impact music culture at all.

    And I now remember that first Poster Children e.p. coming out on Limited Potential too since Murph reminded me. I just remember some sour grapes being muttered that it was all a sham to get the band onto Virgin at some point, even though the rumors suggested they had started with Virgin from the beginning.

  28. I think that REO would better be compared to a band like Nickleback, Creed or Stone Temple Pilots. I would even throw Bush into that camp.

    As for the “influence” of SP, what does that really mean? A lot of people would list them as one of their favorite bands of the era, and their music gets covered often by today’s alterna-bands. I’ve seen several recent covers of “Tonight Tonight” online, one recently by Passion Pit that’s pretty cool.

    To say that they’ve had no influence you’d have to show that none of the bands today or since their heyday ever give them any props. Which would be very hard to do.

    There’s a big difference between a band not having a lansting influence on rock n roll and a few alternative music snobs simply not liking them.

    I think that most snob criticism of The Pumpkins come down to dissing Billy over his verbal diareah. If he was a little less forthcoming with his stream of consciousness on every subject imaginable, I think a lot of that criticsm wouldn’t exist.

  29. The hard truth, artistically, is that his contemporary, Kurt Cobain, did more with a few nifty chord progressions and a clever melody than Corgan could do with 50 massed guitars and Jimmy Chamberlin wailing away. And this is what vexes Billy so. He mistakes his ambition, passion, and obsession for art.

    I just heard Springsteen quoting Scorcese: “Your job as an artist is to make the audience care about your obsessions.”

    But about Corgan’s obsessions, we could really give a fuck.

    That said, who doesn’t like wailing guitars and pummeling grooves? The Pumpkins’ arrangements and production are really clever, Jimmy Chamberlin is superb, Corgan’s probably the best guitar player of his time, and ah…Darcy and James look cool, right? Their greatest hits record should keep them in gravy all their lives. That’s a pretty good deal guys!

  30. Comparing anybody else of that era to Cobain is cruel. Nobody is Kurt Cobain. That’s like blaming somebody for not being John Lennon. But yeah, I think you’re right to some extent. Billy honestly views himself as a great artist, but he’s often been dissed in the music media. He has to be blamed partly for that, as he’s constantly giving critics fodder for their scorn. And like this Pavement gaff, what gets him attention almost always has nothing to do with his music.

    As far not caring, I think that’s dead wrong. The Pumpkins have a world wide following and tour regularly, occassionally playing very large venues (mostly overseas). They’ve also got a very active online fan base that doesn’t ever seem to cool down.

    How the fuck did I end up being Billy Corgan’s appologist, anyway? God damn it!

  31. I love it scotty!

    Cobain’s no Lennon, but of course you’re right. It’s not fair to compare them: but it’s Billy who insists he’s That Important. It’s weird that that grinds him–unless its a put-on, in which case its brilliant. I don’t mean to say the Pumpkins don’t or shouldn’t have an audience. The guy is freaking talented! (even if I think STP is way better)(but then, I used to tape REO off the radio back in he day!)

  32. I don’t think Billy thinks that he’s as important as Cobain…

    Although, if you showed me a quote where he said such, I’d probably not question it.

    STP? They DO think they’re shit doesn’t stink. I’ve heard interviews with those cocksuckers where they’ve blathered on about how great they were.

    I can list which specific good rock songs STP ripped-off for each of their Top 40 hits. Fuck them and fuck their mindless turd brained fans. I’d rather listen to Styx or Air Supply!

    Sorry, long day. Peace out!

  33. Comparing the Pumpkins to REO is baseless no matter who does it. Don’t like ’em? Hate Corgan? Fine. We all have our faves and whatnot, but let’s not our distaste for an artist overwhelm our perceptions. What’s next? “Rhinoceros” sounds like Air Supply?

    Man, the level of STP hate on here confused me: for a second I thought I was on Pitchfork!

    I hate to cite AMG here but this encapsulates my opinion about STP (emphasis mine):

    Although they seemed rather cookie-cutter at first…it’s clear that Stone Temple Pilots were one of the great singles bands of the ’90s. Single for single, they had a dynamic mix of crunching hard rock and sugary, slightly trippy melodies, underscored by a real sense of urgency and perfect production by [Brendan] O’Brien, where each track unfolded with layer upon layer of sonic detail and no song outstayed its welcome. This was alt-rock played as classic rock — it played by the rules of ’70s album rock, but its amalgam of sounds and styles, where STP poached from metal, glam, bubblegum, the Beatles, and album rock in equal measure, was purely a creation of the ’90s, where postmodern aesthetics became part of the mainstream. And, within the mainstream, nobody did it better than Stone Temple Pilots. Yes, their peers certainly had more indie credibility, but great pop music isn’t about credibility; it’s how the music sounds, and STP made music that sounded great at the time and even better now.

    Amen.

    (Let me take cover now…here comes the avalanche! heh, heh)

  34. I’m with Kiko. STP = Great singles band. (Though I hate the song about “when the dogs begin to smell her.”)

    They’re sort of like a grunge Monkees.

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