Thank god St. Petersburg, FL, has forever been a shitty place for music. Otherwise, a young and very straggly Billy Corgan might not have returned home to Chicago to form The Smashing Pumpkins. Equal thanks goes to Metro Cabaret owner Joe Shanahan, whose insistence that the band find a drummer led to the discovery and recruitment of jazz percussionist Jimmy Chamberlin. Without him, it’s very likely Corgan would have spent years attempting to recreate Seventeen Seconds, Faith, or Pornography in lieu of the rock gems that framed most of the ’90s.
What separates the Pumpkins from most of their contemporaries, however, is their mired past. Controversy, chaos, conflict, and corruption strangled the band’s foundation for years: from the hellish recording sessions behind 1993’s Siamese Dream, to the bitter spats with an indie Rolodex of Pavement, Steve Albini, and Bob Mould, and eventually to the tragedies surrounding Chamberlin’s dark, druggy days amidst 1998’s Adore. It’s a difficult task being a Pumpkin, and heavy is the head who wears the crown, aka the Pumpkin King himself, Mr. Corgan.
Shuffles in the lineup, a vitriolic media, and a fractured fanbase haven’t been kind to Corgan over the years — and yet, he keeps waving the moniker. Although we’ll never get a true-blue reunion — sorry, D’arcy Wretzky — the current lineup of Billy, Jimmy, James Iha, and Jeff Schroeder comes pretty damn close. Shiny and Oh So Bright Vol. 1 wasn’t exactly what fans were expecting, but proves there’s a life to this team, at least enough to keep us around for now.
To coincide with the release of their 11th studio album, CYR, we decided to put their catalogue to the test and rank every single studio album leading up to it. Sadly, that means no B-sides compilations like Pisces Iscariot, The Aeroplane Flies High, or Judas O, and certainly not their expansive selection of EPs as varied as Lull, American Gothic, or both Teargarden releases. Sorry. Maybe one day. For now, these 11 exhaustive dissections should prove revelatory enough to either get you nodding in approval or foaming at the mouth like a rat in a cage.
Next time, I promise we’ll be perfect.