Addressing the ever-shrinking credibility of rock journalism since 2007. With a sasquatch.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Off The Shelf: If All Goes Wrong (2008)

If All Goes Wrong by Jack Gulliek
The 2008 double-disc documentary is not the story of the "old" Smashing Pumpkins (Corrigan, James Iha, D'arcy Wretzky and Jimmy Chamberlin) but the story of the "new" Pumpkins who were re-formed in 2007. The 2007-2009 line-up retains lovable a-hole, miscreant and frontman Billy Corrigan with drummer Jimmy Chamberlin while adding Jeff Schroeder, Ginger Reyes, and Lisa Harriton.

The Pumpkins documentary is a challenge to watch for a lot of reasons. According to Wikipedia, the band started in 1988 Chicago with Corrigan, Iha and a drum machine. Their 1991 debut album Gish was recorded in Madison, Wisconsin by the legendary Butch Vig who produced Nirvana's smash album Nevermind and two Sonic Youth albums. It's worth noting that on Gish, Corrigan played all the instruments minus drums. Five years later in 1996, touring keyboardist Jonathan Melvoin and Chamberlin OD'ed on heroin in New York. Melvoin died, and Chamberlin was arrested for drug possession and ejected from the band. In 1998, the Pumpkins, as a trio, won a Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance.

None of this information is included in the 2008 documentary. At all.

Instead, Corrigan spends half of this "new" Pumpkins documentary in a hospital gown on a hotel bed scarfing raw spinach and half-heartedly slamming his acoustic guitar into his comforter while professing his love for Victorian England. Corrigan spends the other half of the film playing "sad acoustic songs that you hate".

As a fella that came up in an era of Dinosaur, Sonic Youth and Slayer I had to trooper through the's history right? Like reading really bad back issues of the Fantastic Four (No, Miss Marvel that's...the Powerman!) or watching stitches get sewn into your hand - I had to know how it all ended.

The film is not without it's merits, punctuated by moments of unexpected kindness on the road and a splitscreen video effect that explores the new fans POV. In the middle of monotonous acoustic sets and spinach-scarfing there are a biting, relevant reflections about the power of music it's seemingly disposable nature. On the second disc, there's a live version of Super Christ that touches on the power and poignancy of the "old" Pumpkins that is so mind-numbingly good that it makes the viewer question the necessity of the other three and half hours of footage.


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