Courtesy of Sun-Times Media
Billy Corgan at Glastonbury in 2013, which shouldn't be any different from Billy Corgan in Chicago in 2018
Today Billy Corgan's Smashing Pumpkins announced that three-fourths of their original lineup would reunite for a summer tour, a moment that Corgan, drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, and guitarist James Iha have been moving toward for a couple years. Corgan resuscitated the Pumpkins brand in 2007, after roughly seven years of dormancy, and since then he and a revolving-door crew of musicians (including Chamberlin on occasion) have released four albums of new material and toured extensively. In March 2016, on the LA stop of the band's acoustic tour with Liz Phair
, Iha joined Corgan and Chamberlin for several songs, mostly from 1993's Siamese Dream
. Soon after that show, Corgan began teasing a proper Pumpkins reunion—perhaps the closest he'll come to acknowledging that he can't reproduce the band's early-90s cachet on his own.
Since then Iha has contributed to Corgan's second solo album, October's Ogilala
, and last month Corgan posted an Instagram shot
of himself, Iha, and Chamberlin in front of a studio mixer. A couple weeks later he clarified in another Instagram caption: "We are currently in the studio with Rick Rubin." On Saturday, the Pumpkins' site debuted a countdown clock, which the band's Instagram feed promptly rendered pointless
by hinting at performances in Chicago, LA, and New York. Of course, lots of us could tell the Pumpkins were trying to get the old band back together just from the public feuding this past week between Corgan and original bassist D'arcy Wretzky.
"Feuding" suggests a two-sided fight, though, and Wretzky has done most of the talking, at least in public. On Sunday she told music site BlastEcho
that Corgan had offered her a contract to play in Smashing Pumpkins and then rescinded it. Corgan has only formally responded once—or rather, the band has only responded once, through a spokesperson
Despite reports, Ms. Wretzky has repeatedly been invited out to play with the group, participate in demo sessions, or at the very least, meet face-to-face, and in each and every instance she always deferred. We wish her all the best, and look forward to reconnecting with you all very soon.
Yesterday, music site Alternative Nation published a lengthy interview with Wretzky
—her first in two decades—that details her fucked-up working relationship with Corgan. It's pretty much already an open secret that Wretzky can't stand Corgan, and he rubs plenty of other people the wrong way too: as Reader
critic Peter Margasak pointed out in his "Worst of Chicago" piece
, Corgan has committed enough public snafus that even his longest-suffering superfans probably took down their prized original Gish
promo posters years ago. What does it tell you that he's played as Smashing Pumpkins with hired guns for nearly as long as the band's initial run? His current failure to reconcile with Wretzky makes him look like a guy who'd hire actors to play his wife and kid at his high school reunion because his real family isn't talented enough.
The Siamese Dream
single "Today" soundtracks the tour-announcement video, but the news doesn't feel like the greatest anything to me. Iha might bring something new (or old), but the band is still the Billy Corgan show. Let's hope he doesn't use this slightly more complete reunion as an excuse to jack up ticket prices—we'll find out when they go on sale Friday, February 23. But I'm not optimistic. Corgan is still the curmudgeon who banned Tribune
writer Gregory Trotter from his eight-hour Siddhartha
synth odyssey at Madame ZuZu's tea shop in 2014. He's still the loon who went on InfoWars
in 2016 to talk right-wing conspiracy theories with Alex Jones. And if you believe Wretzky (I do), Corgan is still the guy who's schemed behind his former bandmates' backs while marketing the new Smashing Pumpkins lineup as their most authentic reunion.
When I saw Smashing Pumpkins at Northerly Island on their 2015 tour with Marilyn Manson, Corgan performed "Today" like a man forced to fill out a second set of paperwork to send a package at the post office. With any luck he'll rediscover his passion for this stuff, even if he never learns how to play well with others. Smashing Pumpkins headline the United Center on Monday, August 13.