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Episode 68: James Poulos / The Smashing Pumpkins

The Smashing Pumpkins

Scot and Jeff discuss The Smashing Pumpkins with James Poulos.

Introducing the Band:
Your hosts Scot Bertram (@ScotBertram) and Jeff Blehar (@EsotericCD) with guest James Poulos James is the executive editor of The American Mind, author of The Art Of Being Free: How Alexis de Tocqueville Can Save Us from Ourselves, and also the lead guitarist and singer/songwriter for the band Vast Asteroid. Follow James on Twitter at @jamespoulos.

James’ musical pick: The Smashing Pumpkins:
It’s time to set the ray to Billy as the gang covers one of the ’90s biggest alt-rock acts, and one of the very few with a staying power that has lasted beyond those hazy flannel- and gloom-soaked years. James, an accomplished musician in his own right, declares Billy Corgan (lead singer/songwriter/dictator of the Chicago-based Smashing Pumpkins) to be the only musician he’s ever felt unworthy of approaching in public and talking to, that’s how much in awe he is of his talents. And it’s hard not to agree once you take in the full range of the Pumpkins’ output during that decade: the sprawl, the deep resonant feeling, and the almost comical megalomaniacal ambition (Jeff describes SP as “a clown car filled with My Bloody Valentine gets into a head-on collision with another clown-car filled with the late ’80s members of The Cure, and then both get suddenly hit by the Guns ‘N Roses Use Your Illusion-era tourbus). In the 1990s, Corgan took the Pumpkins from shaggy psychedelia to diamond-hard alt-rock to sprawling quasi-operatic triple-LP opus to shockingly great acoustic/danceable introversion and all the way back around again, and did it all in the teeth of inexplicable critical hatred among the hip press. And in the doing, turned himself into what James argues is the first true rock poet of suburban kids. This is an episode where we don’t simply give the Pumpkins their due, we try to come to grips with what they meant, and why it mattered. And it did. Listen tonight.

Tonight, tonight.

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