The history of the Smashing Pumpkins' career is rife with ups and downs, grandeur and upsets. While the band released some of the most ambitious rock albums of the nineties, they spent most of the decade confusing their fans and critics, striking out to new territories when the old ones became tired and overdone.
In 1995, for example, the band released one of the most ambitious and successful concept albums, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, establishing themselves as one of the best alternative rock bands out there. The album was a commercial success as well, and is still one of the most successful double-disc albums of all time. Then, the band adored critics but confused fans with 1998's Adore, leaving many scratching their heads wondering: what is this stuff? (For the record, this music critic happens to think Adore is Smashing Pumpkins' best album and doesn't care that hardly anyone else agrees with him).
Such is the fate of a band that always did whatever they wanted whenever they wanted to, and who cares about the fans or the critics. It was a working formula actually, until Billy Corgan decided to re-form a half-assed version of the band with 2007's Zeitgeist. Promised to be a true return to form, Zeitgeist offered a few excellent gems (such as "That's the Way (My Love Is)" and "Tarantula"), but was mainly a lengthy caricature of their most famous stadium rock anthems. That, along with a poor audio mix and cheesy pseudo-political artwork, Zeitgeist fizzled away just as fast as it jumped into our laps promising Billy Corgan's messianic visions of rock and roll. By the time I got to the end of the year, I had completely forgotten about this album. And that's from the perspective of a huge Smashing Pumpkins fan.
So here we are with a new year, and Billy Corgan is promising more Smashing Pumpkins music. The American Gothic EP was released on iTunes this last week, and offers a departure from the behemoth that is Zeitgeist. For one, Corgan takes what made his acoustic offerings so powerful in the past, and tries to rediscover that edge.