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Well perhaps you've heard on one of the major music sites around, it appears as if my beloved Smashing Pumpkins are once again going through a lineup change. It has been announced that Jimmy Chamberlin, original drummer and only original member in the band since the "reunion" other than Billy Corgan, has left the band. There hasn't been too much information released about why exactly Chamberlin decided to leave, but many have speculated and found evidence to support that this move may have been motivated by his desire to record with his other project, the Jimmy Chamberlin Complex and that the split was amicable. Whether that is true or not... well time will tell.
I first heard this news just the other day (it was announced on March 20th, 2009) and I was actually really shocked. Since the Pumpkins decided to come back together to play music, Billy and Jimmy seemed closer than ever, and both seemed thoroughly committed to making the Pumpkins music the way they wanted to for as long as they could... even Jimmy himself stated that they would make music "until they died" but apparently circumstances have changed.
I'm not going to speculate on why Chamberlin decided to leave... it could be any number of reasons... but I will say that I hope it isn't anything serious (aka, health, drug relapses, etc) and that I hope it was an amicable parting. Billy and Jimmy had such a chemistry on stage together that seemed to come from genuine friendship, from the very beginning that to think they had a serious falling out is upsetting. Still, at the same time, I'm not ruling anything out as it hasn't exactly been an easy time being in the Smashing Pumpkins recently, or being a fan.
Looking back to when the Billy and Jimmy first were starting to write music together again (2+ years ago) it seemed like they would return triumphantly and we would once again have great Pumpkins music around. Well, then they released the album, which I still stand by as a really good, albeit different (and generally safe by comparison to their previous works) album. It even received pretty good reviews... I seem to remember 3-1/2 stars in Rolling Stone... but fans generally couldn't seem to get behind it full force. When I listen to songs like "Gossamer" though, and watch through the If All Goes Wrong DVD, I see a band that is alive with creativity and vibrantly making new and exciting music. I don't feel that as much with the album. Since then some singles have been released (again to mixed reviews) and there was a 20th Anniversary tour, which although I thought the shows were incredible, and I saw 3 different ones, there were again mixed reviews about why the band was experimenting so much... etc etc etc. And lets not forget the verbal bouts between Corgan and the crowd that although I believe often began lighthearted and fun, more than once turned sour and bitter. In the most recent days we've seen Corgan speaking out in favor of the Ticketmaster-Live Nation merger... I haven't really looked in depth as to why, but it seems odd... and the appearance of "Today" in a VISA ad on TV.
I had such faith in this band when they were getting back together, faith that they would make great music, the music that they wanted to. Now, I can't seem to shake this feeling that the Pumpkins are more or less imploding in front of my eyes, losing what they were all about at the beginning and why they got back together... and that maybe it was a rift between Billy and Jimmy that led to this split. I mean, at first they were all about "making art for art's sake" and then they're talking about releasing only singles, apparently through car ("FOL") and VISA ("Today) ads. Personally I'm not for using music out of context, like in an advertisement, but I won't condemn a band for it. There's just in general a negative vibe around everything right now... a feeling of commercialism... not "art for art's sake".
I don't know... I just have a bad feeling about this that I hope proves to be unfounded.
Again, I seriously hope that is not the case (a rift between Billy and Jimmy related to the Pumpkins current artistic/business direction) and I'm certainly not going to stop following this band. I still have the utmost respect for both Billy Corgan and Jimmy Chamberlin for what they've accomplished musically and that will never change, even if the Pumpkins do become nothing but a band playing the backing music for ads.
That said, I'm not going to lie and say that this won't be a drastic change for the band. Yes, Billy Corgan has always been the source of the music, but even if it's purely because of his sheer technical skill Jimmy Chamberlin was a definite force in this band and his presence will be missed. That isn't to say that the next Smashing Pumpkins album won't be a masterpiece (Corgan has said he will continue as the Pumpkins and will be recording come spring)... it has just as much chance of being that as any other album... but it will be a different kind of masterpiece to be sure.
There's been a decent amount of static expressed on various rock and roll forums etc about Corgan continuing to use the Smashing Pumpkins name. I'll admit that it bothered me at first too, especially because he already released an album solo, but if you're familiar with the history of this band, the Smashing Pumpkins was the name Corgan would use to describe his then fictional band long before he even knew the other members if memory serves... so I'm not vehemently against it by any means. Take a band like Queens of the Stone Age. They started as a band, but now, outside of Josh Homme, that lineup changes drastically all the time and they still make great music. Same is true of a few other groups out there. I can understand people's objection, but I think if the music is there, then I think people will get over the name issue in due time.
Like a lot of fans probably, I'll be hoping for this split to be more temporary than anything else... maybe Jimmy can still guest on drums from time to time... but I can't shake my bad feelings.
Hopefully fans will get a little more information about the split in the coming weeks. I think a lot of my (and other people's) bad feelings would be eased if we had more details as to why exactly these two have parted company.
I guess all I can really say is that I will still continue to follow the Smashing Pumpkins, no matter the lineup; I'll be looking forward to whatever music comes out next from both Billy and Jimmy, in whatever format; and I wish both Jimmy Chamberlin and Billy Corgan nothing but the best.