A two hour documentary that captures the ethos and interest of the renewed Smashing Pumpkins is an essential document to anyone who likes the band. It reveals the new lineups working style, details the troubles, traumas, and trials of the birth of the band, and showcases their new, powerful approach of performing and recording songs the week they are recorded, improvising new material on stage, touring furiously, and turning the traditional and ancient album/tour/album on its redundant head.
The second DVD contains a two hour concert with about 8 previously unreleased songs, and a half hour acoustic session of all new songs : in effect a brilliant live album that neither follows the safe and easy 'greatest hits' route, and 5 brand new Pumpkins song as a "Video EP". Whilst the completist in me laments a longer concert film that reflects the three/four hour shows the band often play, this really is a small gripe against this lovingly-assembled, comprehensive, near perfect package. Anyone whose a fan of the band should run to get it.
This documentary makes for an interesting viewing if not a particularly good one. To me it really seemed to portray a band on a big downward spiral. There's the occasional attempt to interject a funny segment a la Viewphoria but it doesn't work because ultimately the tone of the documentary is one of complete confusion and despondency.
The documentary is composed around Billy Corgan (the villain of the piece) and his musings. He comes across as a bit of a pitiful character, a tormented artist, but also incredibly domineering. There is no sense of band, no sense of democracy, no sense of characters/personalities, no real sense of enjoyment... just a lot of alienated musicians and co-workers.
The interview footage is pretty painful - you'll find yourself shouting at the television a lot - and people who have followed the band will find a lot of statements to pick holes in. As for the music and the hastily compiled acoustic songs that feature - it's fine for an open mic night somewhere but not for a paying audience. As such you'll find yourself yawning along with the audience on film.
No one who isn't a huge SP fan will bother with this. I am a massive fan, and I've seen them twice since they re-formed. Sadly, they are far from the peak of their powers and this DVD helps me understand why I was so perplexed after the 2 gigs.
It shows us that BC is the control freak that his reputation deserves and he has surrounded himself with people who make no objectionable comments about his actions. As he tries to re-invent himself once again, it's falling down around him. He writes endless dreary guitar ballads and throws in a 30 minute monstrosity to his performances because he feels that it helps him. Meanwhile the audience can hardly hide their embarrassment, and stick around in case he plays something from Siamese Dream...
What he forgets is that if the music isn't enjoyable to listen to, no-one should have to listen to it, much less applaud it or stick around.
They say that a measure of madness is how far you view your position in the world from the reality of your position, and this suggests that BC is indeed pretty nuts. Constantly referring to himself as artist, one of his lackeys even suggests that Billy is too good for this world! Assuming Billy had some editorial control over this DVD (you've got to believe that!), he supports someone saying that? Rather than cringing with shame and telling the guy to catch himself on, it's included in this DVD!
The DVD itself is interesting from a fans perspective, but I couldn't help but think that this (band) is an animal that should be killed humanely. Yes there are some good tunes on their latest album (2, 3 at a stretch), but there are fewer with each subsequent release from SP. I'm not suggesting that SP become a greatest hits band, even though that's what the fans want, because that seems to wound BC too much; having said that, you'd think he was the only person who had to do a job he wasn't in love with.
His total self obsession and constant self consciousness are destroying someone who has created some of my favourite music. The man needs to chill out, have a beer or something non-healthy and appreciate what he has done before.
Billy's solo album and poetry books bombed, and now he's trading on the SP name to take advantage of the last fans he has. He's going to lose his musical legacy at this rate, which is far from the "Rock History" that another of his hanger's on believes is happening now.
I felt a sense of pity for the band watching this - BC for his poor selection of company (personal assistants etc) and sadistic ego; JC who is eternally grateful for being allowed back into SP and apparently afraid to speak his mind (what is he thinking when Billy is whining on another acoustic song?!?!?!?); and the new band mates who look like they've bitten off more than they can chew and won't stick this circus for too long, but are happy to do their best and keep their heads down for the time being.
At least the DVD lets you see this reality and helps me understand where it has gone wrong and how it continues to do so. I've still got all their releases and will probably continue to buy them as they come out. But it's a blind (deaf?) loyalty, and my hopes are not high for any more SP greatness. Maybe I'll get a surprise sometime.