Reviews

Billy Corgan + The Crimea + Doris Henson

Andrew Phillips

Billy Corgan is the Goth Peter Pan: Instead of a youthful, nymph-like spirit, he possesses a bottomless well-spring of teenage angst.

Billy Corgan + The Crimea + Doris Henson

Billy Corgan + The Crimea + Doris Henson

City: New York
Venue: Webster Hall
Date: 2005-06-27

Billy Corgan
The world is a vampire, sent to drain... Despite all my rage I am still just a rat in a cage Words to soothe sinister spirits: a welcome interlude before the ominous entry of disturbing dreams. Pained banshee wails set against the grind of steel strings, these sentiments ring the truths of a generation of disaffected, introspective teens Or, I mean, they did. But you know, everyone grows up.... right? Wounded souls/ full of rage/ nowhere to go/ consequences be they may/ I resolve to never change Indeed. Ten years later the words to Billy Corgan's "Mina Loy (M.O.H.)" echo the emotion of Smashing Pumpkins hit "Bullet With Butterfly Wings" not with lessened force but, instead, even greater resolve. Billy Corgan is the Goth Peter Pan: Instead of a youthful, nymph-like spirit, he possesses a bottomless well-spring of teenage angst. And, of course, his tights are black, not green, distinguishing him as an emblem of decidedly drearier youth. I suppose I'm not one to be critical about clinging to the past: I am engaging song lyrics many years after the words were written. Of course I've grown up a bit since 1994, moving from crayons to computers while, from the look of things, Corgan continues to pen exclusively with quill and parchment. But then, not all share my cynicism about the eternally pale-skinned Corgan. Roars emerge as each piece of his minimalist set is put into place and again as the techs dim the room to test the spotlights. There's energy in the thick crowd, strange given the largely half-hearted response to Corgan's new solo effort, The Future Embrace. Perhaps these people haven't come to hear the songs at all. Perhaps, like me, they've come to reconnect, to pay homage, to an emblem of their mopey youth. I, for one, am deep in reminiscences. Set behind and on each side of the stage are large ceramic walls made of small white, square tiles. It's strikingly similar to what my middle-school shower room would have looked like if it were recreated for the spring musical. Stationed in front of the walls, broken up by wide, barren spaces are silvery, metallic stands flowing in vine-like patterns across the frames of a solitary keyboard, an electronic drum kit, and two microphones. It's creepy and cool but I can't shake the locker room association and the thought that the instruments were placed there as some artsy prank on my bull-necked gym teacher. Corgan pops his head out as the lights go low, to rapturous applause. He quickly realizes that his role is to bring a crescendo and dips back behind the stage to let his bandmates take their places first. Thirty seconds later the former-Pumpkin appears wearing, of course, all black and lightly tipping the brim of his cap to the throngs of doting twenty-somethings. I have to admit, as I digest the imagery a wash of excitement passes through me. Picking up his guitar, Corgan strums the initial chords as his "drummer" mightily beats two flat synth pads. The "shower room" bursts to life, a sudden array of projected, segmented colors. The tiles become the flattened panels of a gigantic disco ball beaming shapes in all the glory of a psychedelic screensaver. Enveloping the band, the lights slink along the tiles, changing direction and shape in time with the sounds. As electronic beats meet quickly strummed distortion, the lights seem stunning, as if the stage is immersed in the production of some high concept techno video. With the emergence of the saddened superstar and the surrounding theatrics it's easy to lose the actual music in the mix. Perhaps this is a good thing. Corgan's nasal voice scrapes across the electro beats and similarly synthetic, and stilted, space-age atmospherics. The fey emotion of the Pumpkins is there, but it's wrapped in a far less pleasing package. But it's not about the music; it's about the man. So what if Corgan has been allowed too become painfully self-indulgent? So what if the tunes are woefully underdeveloped? Corgan is a superstar to his very bones, squawking the notes and bouncing his eternally teary face. Watching him is not fun, exactly, but its not painful either. Its like flipping through a book of high-school pictures, a mix of pleasant remembrances broken by periodic moments of horror: "I really wore that shirt?" Songs segue into one another with little discernable difference save the ecstatic array of lights and colors. An hour passes but my attention remains rapt; I bask in the presence of Corgan's delicate, soul-bearing wails. It's not that they're very good, more that the whole thing is striking. It's oddly exciting to see in the flesh a man that, many years ago, sadly sang me to sleep. Corgan emerges for the obligatory encore, bathed in blue light, and sings a slow, mournful number before allowing the return of his noisy compatriots. The song, like the man, is strikingly beautiful in its bold insecurity. It's worth appreciating for what it means to me, if not for how it actually sounds. After weathering the rise and fall of the Smashing Pumpkins, and '90s alt-rock for that mater, Corgan has nothing to prove. His hand-picked openers, however, were a different story. Doris Henson, not a person but a band, played opener, straying from Corgan's depraved electro currents. A fairly straight-laced quartet, the band warmed the large crowd of early gatherers with solid garage rock, thankfully interspersing a few clever twists. Their record has its ups and downs but the live delivery is infinitely more striking, characterized by pristine hooks and melodies broken and contorted by the interspersal of truly bracing, ruckus guitar distortion. The use of simple trombone parts adds a particularly powerful edge to the mix. These boys don't stray to far from formula, but their occasional forays are enough to add a distinct edge. I'm later told that Corgan himself waded through a sea of demos, plucking these boys out of the pack. A good choice indeed. Perhaps Corgan has a better sense of new music than his new music foretells. Or maybe not. What to say about middle act the Crimea? Well, ummm… the peninsula from which they take their name was, in the mid-nineteenth century, home to the Crimean War, a conflict between English, French, and Turkish troops. These countries united to eventually win out over the Russians. I mention these delightful factoids only because the underscored history lesson of the namesake is infinitely more interesting than the band. Hailing from the UK -- not Crimea I'm sad to report - the band emerged promisingly to haunting vocal loops only to deliver boring, cocky tunes fed through an array of strikingly pretentious rock star poses. If ever there was a band where the image matched the music this is the one - both would fall under the category of "overwrought". Unlike Doris Henson, these guys don't realize that they got lucky - they think they deserve to tour the legend circuit. They don't, end of story. Well, not quite... According to dictionary.com the country did not change hands but rather "became an autonomous Russian republic in 1921 and a Ukrainian oblast in 1954." For those of you who were wondering an oblast is "an administrative territorial division within Russia and other former Soviet republics, including Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan." Why's that important? Because even if what's happening now is far less interesting then something that happened before, and even if a contemporary image is painful to swallow, we can at least use it to wistfully reminisce

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image