Saturday, October 11, 2008
"Today" was, for better or for worse, the song that made the musical reputation of The Smashing Pumpkins. Having two years before released a decent debut album, Gish, on an independent distributor---a release which won critical acclaim but sold modestly, the band attracted the attention of a major label and promptly recorded a follow up, Siamese Dream, on Virgin Records. Alternative rock guru Butch Vig signed on for a second go round in the producer's chair, eager to record the session tracks which would prove to be the group's commercial breakthrough. For three or four years afterward, the band's popularity rivaled that of Nirvana.
Billy Corgan's typically ironic, deeply sarcastic lyrics punctuate this dark ode to suicidal depression, a point which many listeners at the time missed altogether due to the odd, but strangely well-suited juxtaposition of downbeat lyrics and upbeat melody. From 1993 forward, The Smashing Pumpkins scaled the heights of massive chart success, critical praise, and immense popularity for a few fruitful years. By the end of the 90's the Pumpkins and alternative rock itself waned in both competence and popular interest. Like many similar acts of the period, The Smashing Pumpkins were constantly plagued by personality conflicts, internal strife, and drug addiction. Still, during the group's heyday, they released one memorable single after another, feeding Corgan's towering ego, which was frequently on public display for all to see. A tortured genius he might be, but a series of well-documented character defects rendered the Pumpkins' front man a not particularly approachable, nor well-liked star.