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’90s Alternative: Which of These 13 Songs Were Your Favorites?

Saturday, April 4th, 2015 - by Allston

Liz Sheld recently had an article up titled “The 10 Best ’80s Alternative Songs.” 

This is a durn good list. I recollect all of those acts from during their heyday quite well, and I enjoyed them all very much.  But I must respectfully disagree with the premise – “Alternative” as a genre is really a phenomenon of the ’90s, not the ’80s.  Having been a ’70s rocker turned ’80s New Waver and all, I suppose I can attest to this as well as anyone.  Maybe even better than most – me, Ogg, really got around during those early-on Troglodyte days of Punk and New Wave.  Rawr!  Remind me someday to tell you what CBGBs and “The Underground” were like back when.

To me, here are some of what I might consider as ’90s “Alternative”  As usual, this is a highly subjective list in no particular order, some restrictions may apply, batteries not included:

I liked their sound, but they appeared and then pretty much disappeared, just like that.  So it goes…

1. Swervedriver – “Duel”

They had their run, head-music for the Alternative set.  Wow, I am lost into the song, whoah, Dude…

2. Curve – “Horror Head”

I like Dub Star as well.  They got the “Trippy” stuff down, but never went off into that kinda trancy stuff.  Kept you active, not staring at6 your navel.

3. Dub Star – “Anywhere”

My friends and I at that time referred to Mazzy Star as angsty Heroin chic.  Which, according to popular legend, they basically were, all musically inclined Heroin addicts.

4. Mazzy Star – “Fade Into You”

Expansive, trippy, what a lush sound, late in the Irish music “invasion.”  These guys should have done better.

5. Chimera – “Slow Burn”

The story of “Jeremy” says to me that he ultimately took his own life, and that is tragic.  But it’s a damned good song, always worth the listen.

6. Pearl Jam – “Jeremy’s Spoken”

Yes, Courtney Love.  Like her or not, her band had its run, and did fairly well.

7. Hole – “Violet”

“Sneaker Puimps?”  Sounds Like White Boys try to be ‘da Hood, with mixed results.

8. Sneaker Pimps – “6 Underground”

“Do you have to let it linger?”  Yes, we humans do seem to be programmed for Drama, aren’t we?

9. The Cranberrys – “Linger”

I never “got” Kay Hanley’s appeal, but the song is good.

10. Letters to Cleo – “Here and Now”

“I Love my Sister, she’s such a Bitch.”  I have this same relationship with mine.  My older sister is such a Grandee, making humorous but snide proclamations from her Settee with a wave of her hand, but I love her so.

11. Juliana Hatfield – “My Sister”

The Verve Pipe deserved better. They were pretty damned good, and should have gone national in a much bigger way.  Regrettably, they came and went, just like that.

12. Verve Pipe – “Villains”

Finally, Catherine Wheel.  These guys also should have done much better.  What a sound.

13. Catherine Wheel – “Judy’s Staring at the Sun”

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How the Sex Pistols Made History by Lying About It

Monday, November 10th, 2014 - by Kathy Shaidle


“…the stage where Johnny Rotten unveiled his baleful stare has given way to a Harry Potter section.”

The venerable St. Martins School of Art having moved to a new campus, another esteemed institution took over its old building this year:

Foyles, one of the many beloved book merchants that line London’s Charing Cross Road.

Traditionalists grumbled that this new Foyles was altogether too slick, nowhere near as dusty and quaint as the original store.

But when discussing this doubly-historic move, the one talking point almost everyone settled on was revealing.

St. Martins School has, over the course of 150 years, produced a number of distinguished graduates.

Its sculpture department was once called “the most famous in the world.”

Yet headlines trumpeting the famous building’s transformation from respected art school to glossy media megashop were almost all variations on a single theme:

“Foyles to open new flagship bookstore on site of Sex Pistols’ first gig”

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Look at Lana

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014 - by Hannah Sternberg


The first thing I thought when I saw this announcement of Lana Del Rey’s new single “West Coast” off her upcoming album Ultraviolence, was, “Oh, wow, she’s brunette now. I wonder where she’s going to go with that.”

I’ve written before about the importance of Lana Del Rey’s image in her music, and how that image has also inspired waves of internet hate. “Lana Del Rey appeals to good girls because she’s the quintessential romantic bad girl: sultry, pouty, with thin white tee shirts and tiny denim shorts, the kind of girl who’d be leaning up against her boyfriend’s hot rod in the school parking lot,” I wrote about her first album.

Why is Lady Gaga praised for her careful cultivation of an image, while Lana Del Rey is consistently derided for it? A few reasons. Gaga has proven herself a masterful performer, bringing her image to life. Del Rey’s live performances are frequently described by those who have attended as low-energy, somewhat awkward and unpolished. That creates the impression that her image is just that — an image, not a living force. Lana Del Rey’s persona exists in a photograph; Lady Gaga’s exists on a stage, in a taxi cab, on the street, on the catwalk.

I think there could be another factor at play, though. Lady Gaga’s image is built on high fashion, decadence, sophistication.  Lana Del Rey claims a trailer trash origin story and a blue collar aesthetic. She infuses romance into seedy, rundown places and unlike Taylor Swift (another carefully cultivated pop-image with a blue collar, small town origin story — despite being the daughter of a banker), Del Rey doesn’t make them cute. In Swift’s high school fairytale, the tomboy falls in love with the football star and pines for him from the bleachers while he hangs out with his cheerleader girlfriend. In Del Rey’s fantasy high school, the heroine is getting pregnant under those bleachers, and the football player still doesn’t love her.

Maybe some people just prefer the glamour of a Lady Gaga (or the tamer glamour of a Taylor Swift) over Lana Del Rey’s trashy bad-girl image. Maybe some people resent that she claims a hard-knock reputation that she didn’t really “earn.”  But maybe there’s another factor at play: Del Rey is singing about things people like to sweep under the rug. No, not in a big social-change way; it’s probably hardly intentional. But look at her early videos, which frequently starred tattooed model Bradley Soileau — he looks like the kind of guy you’d see in a parking lot, who’d make you want to get to your car a little faster. And then there’s the rumors (and derision) surrounding Del Rey’s supposed plastic surgery — sometimes I wonder if she wants people to wonder. Her songs are so often about the things women do to seem attractive and desirable in a world that expects flawless beauty. Del Rey would be far from the first singer to get plastic surgery to fit a popular image — but she would be one of the first mainstream artists who used it to make people feel uncomfortable about beauty standards.

I have to admit, “West Coast” doesn’t have me excited for the new album — it’s very repetitive, and it doesn’t have the drama of “Blue Jeans” or “Born to Die,” or the sweet sadness of “Video Games.” But I’m excited for the collaborations with The Black Keys’s Dan Auerbach, and I’m interested in where Del Rey is going next.

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Andrew Bird’s Flights of Fancy

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014 - by Hannah Sternberg

The first poet I fell in love with was E. E. Cummings. In elementary school we read his poems about springtime and childhood. It wasn’t until years later that I discovered his poems about love and sex, mortality, war, and much more. There aren’t many recent poets who have captured my imagination like E. E. Cummings does. Part of the problem is the difficulty of finding good contemporary poetry — fewer and fewer magazines carry it, and only a few specialty publishers collect it into books. I haven’t tried very hard to look for it, though, because my new favorite poets are working somewhere else entirely — the stage of a local music venue.

My new favorite poet is Andrew Bird. I’ve been following him for five years now. If you’ve heard of him, it’s probably been as a violinist and alternative musician.

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Bird’s lyrics roam from ancient civilizations to a whimsical post-apocalyptic paradise. Some of his songs hint at a story that ended just before he started singing; others sound just like Bird is enjoying playing with words, the way an abstract artist explores form and color. Like the poems of E. E. Cummings, Bird’s lyrics spring to life when the listener learns to focus less on meaning and more on atmosphere.

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Andrew Bird is one of those rare artists who doesn’t just write music — he creates worlds. But despite his lyric-writing ability, I have wonder if calling him a poet fully sums him up. If I only read his lyrics, I might have been reminded of E. E. Cummings but I wouldn’t have been swept away in quite the same way. The music is part of the poetry. He builds delicate castles with piccolo and rhyme — the sum is greater than the parts. I can’t call him a poet because he’s more than that.

So, my hunt for great contemporary poetry is still frustrated. But I can’t say Andrew Bird has let me down.

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Play It Yourself: Tabs and Lyrics


Scythian Empire

A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left 

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Judeo-Christian Themes in the Smashing Pumpkins’ Oceania, Part 13: Freedom

Sunday, December 22nd, 2013 - by Chris Queen


Well, here we are at the end of our series exploring Judeo-Christian ideas and themes in the Smashing Pumpkins’ 2012 album Oceania. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading these posts as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them, Throughout this series, we’ve dug into the concepts of the seekerthe sacred Name of Godwisdomunfaithfulnesshopeunfailing loverepentancethe wayfaith, contentment, and the parable of the Lost Son. Last week, we delved into Track 12, “Inkless,” and the notion of being in the presence of God.

This week to close out the series, we’re looking at the album’s 13th and closing cut, “Wildflower.” This song has a subdued, hymnlike quality – vocals and strings dominate, along with a lead guitar line. The image of a wildflower itself conjures up ideas of a certain type of freedom, and the lyrics suggest freedom in their own way as well:

I trim the wick so fine
To carry forth your light
Comfort me
What will leave will leave


Wildflower in the wilderness outside
Take your chance with love and laughter
And every word I write, yeah

Of course, the concept of freedom shows up throughout the Bible. The Old Testament book of Exodus tells how God gave the Israelites literal physical freedom from slavery at the hands of the Egyptians. Centuries later, God allowed other nations to subdue Israel and take His chosen people into exile as discipline for their disobedience and turning away from Him. However, He released them from exile and paved the way for their return to the land He promised them.

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Judeo-Christian Themes in the Smashing Pumpkins’ Oceania, Part 12: In The Presence Of God

Sunday, December 15th, 2013 - by Chris Queen

Presence of God

Here we are in Week 12 of my series exploring Judeo-Christian themes in the Smashing Pumpkins’ album Oceania. Over the last 11 weeks we’ve explored the concepts of the seeker, the sacred Name of Godwisdomunfaithfulnesshopeunfailing loverepentancethe wayfaith, and contentment. Last week we looked at Jesus’ parable of the Lost Son in Track 9, “Pale Horse.”

Track 12, “Inkless,” is the shortest song on the album, and it is the one that sounds most like the Smashing Pumpkin’s 1990s output. The title conjures up images of a blank page with plenty of possibilities – or, to better suit our purposes, “Inkless” sounds like a description of someone whose sins have been washed away by a sacrifice. Some of the lyrics suggest a journey with God:

The stars are out for us
And what you feel for me rides beside you
Just take me home, take me home


But drive me home the right way
We’ll uncover there’s no other faith but us
A faith in love unseen
Trace the face of love unseen
Don’t shadow up what we mean
Uncover what were meant to be
And come unlace your light
The stars are out tonight

Throughout the Bible, we read about different people who experienced God’s presence directly. In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve encountered God directly in the Garden of Eden, but their sin drove God to separate mankind from his perfect presence. In Exodus 33, Moses had direct conversations in God’s presence:

8 And whenever Moses went out to the tent, all the people rose and stood at the entrances to their tents, watching Moses until he entered the tent. 9 As Moses went into the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and stay at the entrance, while the Lord spoke with Moses. 10 Whenever the people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the entrance to the tent, they all stood and worshiped, each at the entrance to their tent. 11 The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent.

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Judeo-Christian Themes in the Smashing Pumpkins’ Oceania, Part 11: The Lost Son

Sunday, December 8th, 2013 - by Chris Queen


Welcome to Week 11 of my series exploring Judeo-Christian themes in the Smashing Pumpkin’s 2012 album Oceania. If you’ve been following this series, you know that we’ve looked at the themes of the seeker, the sacred Name of God, wisdom, unfaithfulness, hope, unfailing love, repentance, the way, and faith. Last week, we looked at the concept of contentment in the lyrics to Track 11, “Glissandra.”

This week, we’re looking at Track 9, “Pale Horse,” which is a mid-tempo rocker with a steady rhythm. In the lyrics, Corgan signs to someone who is separated from him. (References to the antipsychotic drug Thorazine and the line “When they locked you up they shut me out” suggest that the song refers to someone in a mental institution.)

I’ll admit that I had some trouble seeing anything in the lyrics that I could write about, so I skipped past it for a couple of weeks. But this week, as I was preparing to write this post, certain lyrics made me think of one of the most poignant stories in the Bible:

If I was to listen, I’d turn back
Give up on my reasons
Forgive up the past
You think I’d swallow that?


There’ll be no others
There’ll be no long lost friends
Empty on the insides
Empty of a last pretense
To stand by on feeling of the end
So many lives
A runaway life
So many lies


So many lives
A runaway life
Please come back
Please come back

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Judeo-Christian Themes in the Smashing Pumpkins’ Oceania, Part 9: Faith

Sunday, November 24th, 2013 - by Chris Queen


Welcome to Week 9 of my series exploring Judeo-Christian themes in the Smashing Pumpkins’ 2012 album OceaniaCheck out the previous posts if you want to catch up. Last week we talked about the concept of  The Way in Track 8, the title track. This week, I’ve pressed the skip button to check out Track 10, “The Chimera.”

“The Chimera” is a driving, straight-ahead rocker. I have a lot of fun listening to it, and I imagine Billy Corgan enjoyed the recording process as well. Upbeat yet edgy guitars and pounding drums drive the track, and Corgan sings with abandon.

I can’t really tell what the song is about exactly – the titular creature, a mythical combination of a lion, a goat, and a snake – doesn’t appear anywhere in the lyrics. Some of the lyrics sound as if they come from the perspective of someone who is discovering faith and perhaps even singing to God.

I’ll take you with me where I climb
In my mind, oh my mind


I’ll take you with me where I keep
In my sleep, oh in my sleep
And if I’m wrong, I’m right
I’m never gonna lose you
If I’m wrong, I’m right
Take me to your life
All you need is you, lover
All you need is you
All you need is you, lover
So please need me too
What you need is love, stranger
What you need is love
When your love needs its danger
Please let me through when I’ve got you

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Judeo-Christian Themes in the Smashing Pumpkins’ Oceania, Part 8: The Way

Sunday, November 17th, 2013 - by Chris Queen

This Way

Here we are in Week 8 of my series looking at Judeo-Christian themes in the Smashing Pumpkins’ brilliant 2012 album Oceania. Check out the previous posts if you want to catch up.

Track 8 on Oceania is the title track, and it’s more of a challenge musically or lyrically than any of the previous songs. “Oceania” is a nine-minute opus that shifts time signatures and tempos reminiscent of progressive rock. I’ll confess that I had a difficult time figuring out the lyrics and finding something worth writing about – until my mind stuck on the last few lines. You can’t really call it a stanza or verse, since the song doesn’t have a traditional structure, but in these lyrics Corgan tries to convince another person to:

Try the way

Skirt the cliffs of your illusion

Find the faith of me

My mistake as the last remaining soldier

Was to take the place of you

Love the way

Love the way and learn

Try the way

Cast off your indecision

Corgan sounds as though he’s found something truly life-changing and wants to share it with the woman to whom he’s singing.

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Judeo-Christian Themes in the Smashing Pumpkins’ Oceania, Part 7: Repentance

Sunday, November 10th, 2013 - by Chris Queen


Welcome back to my series on Judeo-Christian themes in the Smashing Pumpkins’ 2012 release Oceania. I can’t believe we’re just over halfway through the album! If you’re just joining me, I hope you’ll seek out my other posts in the series.

Last week we looked at Track 6, “One Diamond, One Heart,” and the concept of God’s unfailing love. Now we’ll move on to Track 7 – “Pinwheels.” The song starts out in an unusual way – nearly half the song is an instrumental intro, driven by a synth and guitar riff. Nearly three minutes in, Corgan begins strumming an acoustic guitar and singing a love song. In the chorus, he sings:

Floating away I think I’ll stay, as refused
Floating away I think I’ll stay blue, black
Floating away I think I’ll change next to you
Finding a way to make the loss seem new
‘Cause you don’t deserve me, but I deserve you

Clearly, the lover to whom Corgan sings is above someone like him. She doesn’t deserve to have to put up with a man who is bruised and in need of change. If we look at these line in a more metaphorical sense, they suggest someone who wants to turn from his ways and start anew. In Biblical terms, this act is called repentance.

We can find plenty of scriptures about repentance in the Bible – in fact, you could say the book’s entire narrative is the story of fallen mankind turning from sin and back to God. In the Old Testament, God’s chosen people turned away and then back to Him over and over again. God spoke frequently on the need to repent:

21 But if a wicked person turns away from all the sins they have committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, that person will surely live; they will not die. 22 None of the offenses they have committed will be remembered against them. (Ezekiel 18:21-22)

…if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)

I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you. (Isaiah 44:22)

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Judeo-Christian Themes in the Smashing Pumpkins’ Oceania, Part 6: Unfailing Love

Sunday, November 3rd, 2013 - by Chris Queen

Unconditional Love

Welcome to the sixth week of my series exploring Judeo-Christian themes in the songs from the album Oceania by Smashing Pumpkins. After six weeks of digging in, we’re still discovering some fascinating connections between Billy Corgan’s lyrics and concepts in the Bible.

This week’s song, “One Diamond, One Heart” stands in direct contract musically from the track before it, “My Love Is Winter.” Instead of the driving rock of the latter track – and all the other previous cuts on the album, really – in “One Diamond, One Heart” Corgan backs himself with synthesizers, and the song carries more of a pop feel than the others.

Also, in contrast to the heartbreak and despair of earlier tracks, “One Diamond, One Heart” takes a different tone – Corgan sings of a rare love, one that does not fail:

I’m not here to hold your hand
I’m just here to understand
If you’re feeling low I can help
I’m always on your side
Forever near your light
I’m always on your side
However you must fight
Within your darkest night
I’m always on your side


They won’t rush you from me
‘Cause here I’ll always be
I’m always on your side
Forever near your light

The concept of unfailing love often seems like a pipe dream or fairy tale. We might associate this idea with that of a parent’s love, or even a couple who have been married for a long time. But the truth of the matter is that the God of the Bible is the only One whose love absolutely does not fail.

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Judeo-Christian Themes in the Smashing Pumpkins’ Oceania, Part 5: Hope From Despair

Sunday, October 27th, 2013 - by Chris Queen


Welcome to Week 5 of my exploration of Judeo-Christian ideas in the Smashing Pumpkin’ album Oceania. It’s hard to believe we’re already up to Track 5: “My Love Is Winter.”

You can probably guess the tone of the song from its title. For centuries, writers have used the winter season as a metaphor for despair and gloom, and it’s no wonder – short cold days, long colder nights, treeless landscapes. So chances are a song with winter in its title isn’t going to bring much warmth and happiness.

“My Love Is Winter” fits the winter metaphor nicely, at least in places. A minor key melody, combined with cold, detached synthesizer riffs set a certain tone throughout. The lyrics detail a relationship that seems to have dried up like the leaves on the trees:

Lonely draw
Sides grow dimmer
Spellbound all
I waste the hour
My love is winter
My love is lost

Silent fog
Let’s pass and wither
From the cold that saws me flat
My love is winter
My love is lost

However, the lyrics of the chorus take a turn for the better, suggesting that love isn’t really lost:

There is love enough for the both of us
There is more than prayers made to be with you

The refrain repeats several times at the end, closing the song on a more hopeful (though still minor-key) note:

There is love enough for the both of us
There is love enough
There is love
There is love enough for the both of us
There is love enough
There is love

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Judeo-Christian Themes in the Smashing Pumpkins’ Oceania, Part 4: The Unfaithful Lover

Sunday, October 20th, 2013 - by Chris Queen


Welcome back to our series on Judeo-Christian themes and values in the Smashing Pumpkins’ 2012 album Oceania. If you haven’t been following this series, here’s a quick recap, along with links to the prior posts. We’ve looked at the concept of the seeker of God in “Panopticon,” at the Sacred Name of God in “Quasar,” and at the idea of sharing wisdom in “The Celestials” (and of course I was on vacation last week).

This week, we’re checking out track 4, “Violet Rays.” This track doesn’t rock as much as the prior songs — in fact, it’s downright subdued by comparison. Over a 6/8 time signature and a haunting beat, Corgan sings from the point of view of a lover with a wandering eye and heart.

Faithless moors
Pulling up your oars
From rivers I have crossed
In magic no heart’s lost

And I’ll leave with anyone this night
And I’ll kiss anyone tonight

Am I the only one you see?
Raised from the path of revelry

Spells fall frail
Webs catching sail
In eternal eternities
Divine purpose catching free

And I’ll leave with anyone this night
And I’ll kiss anyone tonight

Clearly, this person is looking to cheat or has cheated — or both. I’ve read suggestions that Corgan wrote this song about a girlfriend who cheated on him, but he has apparently refused to confirm or deny.

Interestingly enough, the Bible employs the metaphor of the unfaithful lover to describe God’s people — particularly the nation of Israel — as they wander and stray from Him.

In Deuteronomy 30, as the Israelites are on the verge of taking the Promised Land, God warns the nation of the consequences of both faithfulness and unfaithfuness to Him:

15 See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. 16 For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess.

17 But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, 18 I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.

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Yes, There Are Judeo-Christian Themes in the Smashing Pumpkins’ Oceania, Part 3: The Dispenser of Wisdom

Sunday, October 6th, 2013 - by Chris Queen


Welcome to the third installment in my series examining Judeo-Christian values and ideas in the Smashing Pumpkins’ album Oceania. Last week, I delved into the album’s opening track, “Quasar” and Billy Corgan’s use of the abbreviation of the sacred Hebrew name of God.

This week I’m looking at the third track, “The Celestials,” and I have to admit that I had a difficult time understanding the song – much less finding some meaning in it – until I searched the lyrics and found a comment on one of those lyric sites. The commenter wrote:

Billy Corgan, in the interview “From Mellon Collie to Oceania” with Matt Pinfield, said…that this song is almost as if the same guy that was singing on Mellon Collie, is singing to a kid from today with the experience he has, almost sort of warning him of what to do.

Then it hit me. I imagined Corgan today, singing these lyrics to a young, idealistic rocker, set on wearing the Zero t-shirt and singing lyrics about being a “rat in a cage.” Or perhaps he is speaking as a father to his child. In this light, he is imparting wisdom and sharing experience in small nuggets, almost like fortune cookies – or proverbs.

Endlessly they’ll set you free
Give you reason to believe


Never let the summer catch you down
Never let your thoughts run free
Even when their numbers draw you out
Everything I want is free
‘Til the end


Take a chance if you should go
Face upon your happy home…
You were always on your own
You can’t escape


Never let the summer catch you down
Never let your thoughts run free
Even while their numbers call you out

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Yes, There Are Judeo-Christian Themes in the Smashing Pumpkins’ Oceania, Part 2: The Name

Sunday, September 29th, 2013 - by Chris Queen

St. Charles's Church

Here we are in Part Two of my series on the Judeo-Christian themes in the Smashing Pumpkins’ 2012 album Oceania. Last week, I looked at the second track, “Panopticon,” the concept of the seeker, and God’s rewards for those who seek Him. This week, I’m backtracking in terms of album order and looking at the opening cut, “Quasar.”

“Quasar” roars right out of the box with a driving beat and charging guitars. It’s a challenging piece of music, shifting tempos and time signatures but always rocking hard. Leader Billy Corgan issues a charge:

God right on!
Krishna right on!
Mark right on!
Yod He Vau He Om
Let’s ride on!
Right on!
Let’s ride on!

I love the trade off between the phrases “Right on!” and “Ride on!” – but my focus in this post is on the fourth line there. Remove the Dharmic mantra Om from the end of the line and we see a powerful and integral part of both Judaism and Christianity – the name of God.

Yodh He Vav He (יהוה‎)are the Hebrew letters which make up the Tetragrammaton – the Hebrew abbreviation for the sacred Name of the God of Israel. In Roman letters YHWH make up the Tetragrammaton. The Name of God is so holy in Judaism that observant Jews dare not speak it. Some Christians have pronounced the Tetragrammaton as “Jehovah” or “Yahweh,” but neither are quite right. I found this superb explanation in the Urban Dictionary, of all places:

This codified form was not meant to be pronounced as is, rather it means “think Yahweh, say Adonai”. This was done based on the idea of Rabbinic Judaism that it is better not to say “Yahweh” at all rather than to take a chance on saying it in vain.

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Yes, There Are Judeo-Christian Values in the Smashing Pumpkins’ Oceania, Part 1: The Seeker

Sunday, September 22nd, 2013 - by Chris Queen
Presidio Modelo, a panopticon-styled abandoned prison in Cuba.

Presidio Modelo, a panopticon-styled abandoned prison in Cuba.

Last week, I wrote about the spiritual journey of Billy Corgan, the lead singer, guitarist, and songwriter for Smashing Pumpkins. His journey has taken him from a nihilistic lack of faith to a spirituality that embraces many faiths – including elements of Christianity. The band’s excellent 2012 album Oceania reflects Corgan’s spiritual state, and Judeo-Christian themes run throughout the songs.

Track 2 of Oceania has an odd title. I’ll admit I had to look up what a panopticon was. Wikipedia explains the concept of a panopticon this way:

The Panopticon is a type of institutional building designed by English philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham in the late 18th century. The concept of the design is to allow a watchman to observe (-opticon) all (pan-) inmates of an institution without their being able to tell whether they are being watched or not…

The design consists of a circular structure with an “inspection house” at its centre, from which the managers or staff of the institution are able to watch the inmates, who are stationed around the perimeter. Bentham conceived the basic plan as being equally applicable to hospitals, schools, sanatoriums, daycares, and asylums, but he devoted most of his efforts to developing a design for a Panopticon prison, and it is his prison which is most widely understood by the term.

In the song, Corgan may not be in a prison, though he speaks of “rest[ing] in the shells I’ve designed.” Rather, I see him as the observer in the tower (perhaps the tower on the album’s cover), looking out into the world around him. And he is seeking – seeking God.

Rise! Love is here
Oh, don’t make me wonder
Life’s never clear where choice is a gift
To use and abuse
To build on proof


Oh don’t make me wonder
To ask on behalf of you
Of you, where are you?
Where are you in you?*

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The Spiritual Journey Of Billy Corgan

Thursday, September 19th, 2013 - by Chris Queen

Billy Corgan then and now

When you put together a list of the most influential and interesting bands of the ’90s, you have to put Smashing Pumpkins near the top of the list. The band and its charismatic leader, Billy Corgan, took a flair for the grandiose, a generation’s angst, and Corgan’s distinctive voice and parlayed them into a successful career, selling 25 million albums.

Smashing Pumpkin’s songs spoke to certain members of my generation in ways that no other band could. Lyrics like, “The killer in me is the killer in you,” “In spite of my rage, I’m still just a rat in a cage,” and “We don’t even care” reflected a particular spiritual emptiness in Generation X. Whether fans were drawn to that brand of nihilism (remember the Zero T-shirt?) or, like me, just enjoyed the music, there was no denying the darkness at the core of Corgan’s music.

Corgan admits that he had a definite reason for such darkness – he struggled with depression and often harbored suicidal thoughts during the band’s heyday:

“I think I had to hit rock-bottom to even be open to ask for help,” he says of his state of mind during much of the 1990s.

“There were days, months and years where I just stared out the window and felt miserable…”


Corgan’s music was always hailed for its raw honesty but overt spirituality didn’t seem to be part of his earlier life. In 1993, while their second album, “Siamese Dream,” catapulted The Pumpkins to nationwide popular success, Corgan says he felt suicidal.

Throughout that period, Corgan’s maniacally creative genius helped him suppress the unhappiness and emptiness he felt inside as the world seemed to simultaneously hand him the best and worst of everything. Band members’ drug addictions, messy personal relationships and the pressure of living up to expectations of becoming the new Nirvana locked Corgan into a deep depression while record sales soared.

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Wait, Was That Insane Clown Posse on Red Eye?

Friday, August 2nd, 2013 - by Paula Bolyard


The offbeat, irreverent late-night show Red Eye with Greg Gutfeld got even more weird this week when the “wicked clowns” from Insane Clown Posse appeared as guests. Did the libertarian-leaning 3AM free-for-all show jump the shark (is that even possible?) when Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope showed up in full makeup, to promote their new show on Fuse, “Insane Clown Posse Theater”? Gutfeld said,

For over 20 years now, the masters of horrorcore have been known for their freakishly loyal fan base, all without the help of the lamestream media, or even hand soap, for that matter.”

He said the appearance was like the “blending of two worlds together” (two worlds most Americans only see in their nightmares, I might add).

Shaggy 2 Dope described the new show in which the two comment on videos and various entertainment-related stories and said, “We did our studies and everything is 100% fact.” Fox News personality Gutfeld pounced on some common ground: “Fair and balanced!”

Violent J shared his frustration that even though they’ve sold millions of records and have millions of loyal fans (called Juggalos), they haven’t received the recognition they deserved from the record industry. “All we want to do is count. We want people so say, you know, they exist too, they’re part of the industry somewhere.”

Red Eye panelist Mike Baker asked Violet J if that really mattered to him. “Juggelos are real people and we just want to know that we’re there — our contention is there. Our punches are to be felt as well. Our voices are to be heard, you know what I’m saying? We want to be heard. We want to count,” said Violent J.

Gutfeld posited that it’s a class problem. Music critics are “elitist college grads — and failed musicians.”

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Mellon Collie & the Infinite Sadness Remastered on Vinyl for $73.99

Thursday, November 22nd, 2012 - by PJ Lifestyle Music

via Amazon.com: Mellon Collie & the Infinite Sadness: The Smashing Pumpkins: Music.


Emotionally over-the-top pop extravaganzas like the string-swelling “Tonight Tonight,” the Metallica-influenced alternative rock of “Zero,” the techno via new wave of “1979″–the 28 songs on this swell two-disc album are as eclectic as their themes are epic and ambitious. Billy Corgan’s thin whine isn’t much of an instrument, but he makes the most of it by writing smart songs that take emotional chances that more-typical alt rockers would deem uncool. Pessimistic and feeling trapped but still wanting to believe in love, in a future, in something–this is the sound of Gen X at the millennium, with all the self-indulgence and power that would suggest. –David Cantwell

Product Description

MELLON COLLIE AND THE INFINITE SADNESS is being released in multiple physical and digital configurations, including an expanded 5CD+DVD Deluxe Box Set (also available digitally) and the remastered original album in 4LP Vinyl, 2CD, and digital formats. The Deluxe Box Set’s 5 CDs include 64 bonus tracks of previously unreleased material or alternate versions of MELLON COLLIE era songs, and its DVD features a live show filmed at the Brixton Academy, London (1996) and bonus performances from the German music television show Rockpalast (1996). It all comes housed in a 12 x 12 lift-top box with magnetic closure, reimagined cover art and velvet-lined disc holder. The package includes 2 books containing personal notes, lyrics, new collage artwork, plus a Decoupage kit for creating your own scenes from the MELLON COLLIE universe. The bonus content and special features were curated from the band’s archives by CORGAN, and have been painstakingly remastered for the first time from the original master tapes by Bob Ludwig.

Originally released October 24, 1995, MELLON COLLIE AND THE INFINITE SADNESS would debut at #1 on the Billboard 200 chart and was certified 9x platinum by the RIAA. It yielded major hits like “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” the band’s unlikely first Top 40 hit the exquisite “1979″ and epic “Tonight, Tonight” as well as a thoroughly inspired series of videos. Produced by BILLY CORGAN, Flood and Alan Moulder, the album would also earn a Grammy Award (1996 Best Hard Rock Performance for “Bullet With Butterfly Wings”) as well as seven nominations. Beyond the more obvious hits, though, MELLON COLLIE is a song cycle of unusual depth and considerable range. It is a collection of stunningly beautiful moments when everything lined up–a moment in time that’s still here to be treasured.

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Related at PJ Lifestyle:

New Smashing Pumpkins Album Oceania Out June 19

The 3 Biggest Myths About Generation X

The 5 Best Generation X Filmmakers

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