Rantings, reviews and lists from a person who structures half his life around obsessing over music.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Smashing Pumpkins - "A Song For A Son"

There are two types of people in the world: the rationalist skeptics and the faithful believers. There are many tests to determine which one you are, but the one I like to use these days is the Teargarden by Kaleidyscope test. This test is simple. Just ask the subject how they reacted when they heard that The Smashing Pumpkins' (or more accurately at this point, The Billy Corgan Experience's) next studio album would be composed of 44 songs released one by one over the course of 3 years. Both types sighed, of course, but if you are a Rationalist it was probably a sigh of exasperation. The faithful on the other hand...

These are the same people who believe there was once a time when Billy Corgan's pretentiousness was a source of intrigue. Whereas the rationalist probably looks at most of Corgan's work as worthless teenage angst, the faithful know that there was something genuinely magical about the art in the liner notes of Mellon Collie. When spun, those smiling moon and sun illustrations covering both discs told dense, engaging fairy tales and painted pictures as fantastic and transportative as any myth Robert Plant was once able to spin.

These two camps are almost equally separated when it comes to the Machina albums. The rationalists will hate it on principle alone, and won't give either of them much of a bone. But the faithful, regardless of how much they liked or disliked them, will always at least commend Corgan's vision throughout it; a complicated conceptual story involving a rock star named Zero, the voice of God, and uncountable amounts of eye-liner.

With Zeitgeist, this distinction disappeared. Everyone hated it.

But what "A Song for A Son" represents is the moment from which the two camps have finally broken off again. The rationalists will undoubtedly write it off as more childish Corgan-penned melodrama. But the faithful will pick up on the prominent use of harpsichords, mellotrons and atmosphere, embrace the prog-rock structure, rave about the dramatic classic rock guitar solo midway throughout the song, and find themselves as excited by the prismatic art that comes with the download as they probably were when they first saw the video for "Tonight Tonight". Do you hear that? A sigh of relief.

So before listening to Corgan's first of many chapters in what will either become the best 90's Alternative (or 70's Classic Rock?) revival album ever or just an excruciatingly long descent into a your average Rock Star ego trip, ask yourself what kind of person you are. Because as much as "A Song For A Son" should be hailed as a refreshing, swoon-worthy, totally awesome return to form, the bottom line is that it's a song made for the faithful.

Song after the jump:

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