Saturday, August 05, 2006

Mr. Trend: Things I Never Realized....

When I was in middle school and high school, I had two sets of "heroes": Smashing Pumpkins, and Sonic Youth. By the time I'd graduated, Sonic Youth had replaced the Smashing Pumpkins as my favorite band, and my adulation and praise for Sonic Youth, for their musical experimentation, their understanding of pop, and so much more, has only increased, while the Smashing Pumpkins faded into the background.

For reasons I still can't explain, this weekend suddenly became a "Smashing Pumpkins" weekend. I've been listening to a lot of their stuff, coming to the following conclusion: their shit was great (and not in a nostalgic sense, either, even though they were my first concert ever in 1996 - for those who would chide me for my "youthfulness", I would simply reply that I had a friend whose first concert was Phil Collins. So I don't want to hear shit about it).

That said, as great as they are, the thing that's really struck me this weekend is the work of their "real" drummer, Jimmy Chamberlain (they had other drummers during Chamberlain's drug-based absence, but Chamberlain always was and will be their only drummer to me and millions of other fans). I never listened to much outside of "alternative" when I listened to the Pumpkins on a regular basis, and since I decreased my listening to them (i.e., I hadn't really listened to them since last summer, and even then, it was just "Siamese Dream), I've expanded my musical tastes, gaining a greater appreciation particularly for blues (especially juke joint blues and country blues) and jazz.

It is the jazz that has led to a re-evaluation of the Pumpkins. Chamberlain's drumwork is remarkable. I always thought he was good for the way he could "mix it up" (I had no better lingo then), but having gained a greater understanding of and appreciation for jazz, he is a remarkable drummer. Though the Pumpkins always were and always will be an "alternative" band, he's clearly trained in jazz-style drumming, and I never did and could have understood the versatility and expression his style brought to the Pumpkins. He was able to swing (no pun intended) from a brush-stick-style jazz beat to a heavy, psychedelic beat in a heartbeat, and he could "mix it up" (hell, I still don't have the appropriate lingo) like few other drummers I could think of.

As the memory of the 90s fades, hopefully the memory of how good the music was will not. Certainly, the Pumpkins are but one example of some of the great music from the 1990-1995 period. However, in retrospect, I have gained a new appreciation for the Pumpkins, for they were far more versatile than I ever could have originally understood. And Jimmy Chamberlain was a central part of that.

Thanks, Jimmy, Billy, James, and D'arcy.