Midsummer muses

By MATT ASHARE  |  July 23, 2007

If Zeitgeist is any answer, he doesn’t care. The album is a testament to Corgan’s skill as a sonic architect: from the opening snare salvos that explode into the dense metallic churn of “Doomsday Clock” to the choirlike harmonies that hover over the funereal procession of “Bleeding the Orchid” to the ghostly guitars that haunt the desolate corners of the nine-minutes-plus “United States,” Zeitgeist is an impressive feat of studio engineering. But titles like “For God and Country” and “United States” promise more than just the same old self-obsessed brooding. Yet, in his efforts to prove he can still do it all himself, Corgan neglected to populate these huge cathedrals of sound, stacked high with guitars, with anything more than the echo of his own voice answering from across the digital divide. The chorus “We are stars/We are” (“Starz”) is as empty as it is desperate. And too often, Corgan’s lyrics read like a suicidal Dr. Suess: sure, he drops Kafka’s name in “Doomsday Clock,” but, at best, lyrics like “Please don’t stop/It’s lonely at the top/These lonely days/When will they ever stop” are Kafka for Idiots.

None of which makes Corgan a bad person. Zeitgeist is, as advertised, discomfort food for the ailing alternative nation. And it’s doing its job: the disc entered the US charts at #2, and is performing just as well abroad. Even better, “The Mighty SP” has reacted with uncharacteristic humor to a faux letter from Corgan that was recently published in the Seattle weekly The Stranger, proclaiming the greatness of the Smashing Pumpkins. An official response from “The Mighty SP” posted on smashingpumpkins.com suggests that the song “United States” was, “in its original form . . . well over an hour long and included a reciting of the Declaration of Independence narrated by all original cast members of the film Reality Bites starring Winona Ryder.” It also states that “8 out of 10 purchasers of the new album Zeitgeist have confirmed that they have experienced increased muscle mass after only two listenings.” Maybe that explains the bizarre white-caped crusader look Corgan’s sporting in the video for “Tarantula.” Either way, a little more humor would go a long way in the lonely world of Billy Corgan.

Scott Weiland, another ’90s survivor who’s suffered for his art (not to mention his addictions), has been regaining his footing this month as the reborn frontman of Velvet Revolver. The band do resemble a 12-step meeting with instruments: Weiland, with his well-publicized heroin problems, is supported by Axl Rose’s former Guns N’ Roses crew, the once debauched Duff McKagen (bass), pro drummer Matt Sorum, and the inimitable Slash, a pure black-leather-and-booze rock-and-roll caricature if ever there was one.

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