I’ve never been much of a Smashing Pumpkins fan. I may have come across a song here or there on the radio, but whatever I heard must never have really grabbed me. That is, until I heard a new song called “A Song for a Son” off their incrementally released newest album “Teargarden by Kaleidyscope.” The song, the first of 44 to be rolled out one at a time, is instantly likable, a straight ahead rocker that starts slowly, builds to a crescendo, and ends plaintively.
The son referred to in the title is not Billy Corgan’s, who basically is The Smashing Pumpkins. As he says about the song: “I think it’s got something to do about not having any kids and thinking about why I don’t have any kids. And then also kind of thinking about my relationship with my father — there’s some kind of connection there, but it’s not overt. I didn’t set out to write that, it just rolled out of me.”
I feel sorry for Mr. Corgan. My daughter turned 18 yesterday, and I have two younger boys, and one of the greatest blessings in the world is having and raising children. As King Solomon said long ago, “Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons (and daughters) born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.”
It is as with Marilyn Manson.
It’s not the voice.
It’s the V I S I O N. The I D E A.
I don’t CARE for artists who are NOT inward gazing. People who dismiss inward speculation as “navel gazing” remind me of those who dismiss ecologically concerned persons as “tree huggers.”
Calling an artist self absorbed is tantamount to damning Christ for being pious.
As far as having once not appreciated Neil Young’s voice…
I am reminded of one of the egregious Jonas Brothers ridiculing Bob Dylan. So out of his depth that I vomited in Technicolor.
As far as a resurgence of Christianity. I do hope not.
Since the belief system is spurious at BEST.
As far as any supposed “wisdom of Solomon,” he never raised the likes of ~me.~
Least a quivered lance turn toward its creator . . . he trembled.
Thanks for pointing this out. I used to listen to Smashing Pumpkins during my undergraduate years, but lost track of them over time (more time listening to talk than music on the radio). I’m going to keep an eye on the rest of songs that will make Teargarden as they come out.
Robert, I was going to put something about his voice in my post, but didn’t, obviously. It is certainly not very good or endearing, but for some reason it really works on this song. As for self-absorption, many artists tend to have melancholy personalities which lends itself to absorption of the self, but our narcissistic culture certainly doesn’t help.
Billy Corgan’s voice has always been the biggest impediment to my enjoyment of the Smashing Pumpkins. He is an outstanding guitarist and arranger, but the bleating that comes out of his mouth sends me running for the hills every time. That being said, I used to feel the same way about Neil Young’s voice, and now I love it. Given time, I may come around to a more nuanced appraisal of SP.
Also problematic, however, is that Corgan takes the “art” of navel-gazing to extreme heights, which is all-too-apparent in his description of his book. To be fair, this in more an inherent trait of my generation than a personal failing of his–though his self-absorption is conspicuous even in relation to that of his peers.
I didn’t know about his blog, Mike, and am glad to hear about his book project. I have strongly believed for several years that the American culture and society are headed toward a much stronger (and, I hope, more stable) Christian religious influence. There are so many stories like Corgan’s happening today that it seems plausible to believe that this is a trend that will sustain and possibly continue to increase in intensity. Meanwhile, an increase in Christian belief and observance in Europe (notably in Germany) further suggests a powerful refutation of the popular intellectual notion that human progress involves the inevitable discarding of religion as an unnecessary and harmful superstition. One can indeed be truly liberal, modern, and faithful. In fact, as Rodney Stark, Richard Niebuhr, many others, and I myself have pointed out, true liberality and liberalism are natural outcomes of a pluralistic vision of Christendom.
Thanks, Sam. I had heard that too after I discovered the song (one night listening to the rather hard rocking 101.1 in the car here in Chicago-I never got the name of the band, but put some lyrics in Google and eventually found it).
Don’t know if you know that he has a blog (http://www.everythingfromheretothere.com/), and in a recent post he announced he’s writing a book from whence came the name of the website. Here is what he wrote about it: “The book is going to be a spiritual memoir about how this boy named William came to find God, or, vice versa, how God came to find William. I can honestly say that my intention is to write a book that touches deeply on my life in a way that very few people know about, and I am excited by that, but also a bit intimidated. If you have ever wondered how I came to be so mercurial, reactionary, silly, or spiritually open, then this book will provide insight into that.”
It’s cool that someone who is so known in popular culture is so bold in pronouncing his new found faith. You can tell he’s trying extra hard not to come off as judgmental, and maybe that will allow him to connect with a lot of seekers.
Excellent article, Mike. It so happens that Billy Corgan has re-embraced Christianity in the past few years (he’s a Catholic, I understand), and this song may be in some ways a manifestation of regret for years wasted not living as he would now prefer to have done. I do like the Pumpkins and Zwan, and I have been very interested to see the further maturing of his vision and music in recent years.
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