Tube/New Noise :: Smashing Pumpkins :: Tarantula

Dear Billy Corgan,

The Dismemberment Plan already made this video. It was for "Time Bomb."

Love, indierocket!

Honestly, I'm not quite sure how I feel about "Tarantula" yet. I will not — and can not — deny that the Pumpkins were (are) one of my all-time favorite bands, but I can't deny that Billy really started losing it around Mellon Collie. At its best, "Tarantula" sounds as though it could've been right at home on the Mellon Collie odds-n-sods collection The Aeroplane Flies High, particularly on the Zero b-sides collection. At its worst, it's regurgitated Machina material (minus the drop-C tunings).

But it's important to see what "Tarantula" is moreso than to recognize what it isn't. Obviously, "Tarantula" isn't "Geek USA" — though it does share similar guitar tones and a similar (if baser and considerably shorter) structure. It isn't "Bullet with Butterfly Wings" or "Zero" — though it does attempt to ape those songs' grandiosity. It isn't "The Everlasting Gaze" — though it does share its simple, driving insistence. What "Tarantula" is is a cross between "Bodies" and "Quiet" — a simple, driving guitar-rock anthem that attempts to unify every one of the Pumpkins' records — the flashy, Stratocaster-heavy guitar heroics of Gish and Siamese Dream; the bored, suburban angst of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness; and the pop-metal hooks of Machina. What "Tarantula" is is a four-minute crash-course in Pumpkins history.

But "Tarantula," for all its historical aspirations, doesn't have a quality hook. Its lyrics are trite. Its chorus is completely unremarkable. In fact, the song as a whole is almost completely forgettable. It's repetitive power-chord drek punctuated by off-kilter, angry-hornet's-nest solos. It sounds like what a Smashing Pumpkins cover band would produce if it were to start writing original tunes. It's a Zwan song. It's Mary, Star of the Sea. It's "Walking Shade."

It is a pale imitation of the band that provided a bulk of the soundtrack to my teenage years. But therein lies the rub, and therein lies the question: Is anything as good as you remember it? Is it really better to burn out than to fade away?

It makes me wonder if this post-millennial Pumpkins would have happened without the post-millennial Pixies reunion.

Still, I'm torn: If "Tarantula," as I've posited, embodies the best and the worst of the Pumpkins, which should be focused on? Does Billy Corgan get a pass due to past performance? Ultimately, I don't think we can let him weasel out of this one, reunion or no — it's still a bloated Machina b-side. And the sad fact is that might be all the newfangled Pumpkins will ever be.

And yet, for all its faults, "Tarantula" is still better than nine-tenths of the shit on modern rock radio. And I can't say that it's terrible — it isn't. It's just that it isn't, you know, good. And that's what I'd come to expect from Billy Corgan. And there'll always be that part of me that absolutely, fanatically loves the Smashing Pumpkins. And that really, really wants to love "Tarantula."

At least I'll always have Siamese Dream.

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