The Smashing Pumpkins, well, what can I say? They’re a band. New music, new incarnation, poised slowly upon the precipice of a new form of greatness. Or at least that is what the DVD If All Goes Wrong would have you believe.
Popping in disc one is a surefire way to be barraged with a meaningless image of the Pumpkins in a black Amish-like horse-drawn carriage, juxtaposed quaintly against an austere setting. After six and a half years, the band has returned, and what they’re giving the audience is a docile confirmation of a new strategy—love, love, please love our new homegrown bullshit.
As if this new image needs confirmation, disc one attempts to give the new Pumpkins lineup street cred by calling on the masterful Pete Townshend. Furthermore, we are fed shots of Corgan, in a ratty bathrobe, attempting to exemplify a blues motif replete with harmonicas and heartfelt strums on the acoustic guitar. Please, my mamma has more attitude than that.
Disc one has its hackles up, bombarding the camera with information about why the new Pumpkins lineup should be taken seriously. Corgan, with the aid of fellow comrade Jimmy Chamberlain, continually brings up hating comparison to the past and wanting to be able to move into the present. At one point Corgan gets so heated he drops an F-bomb, stating explicitly, “Me and Jimmy are getting it fucking together.” If the past is a sore point to Corgan, I wonder how it feels to be James Iha.
The only amusing portion of this whole tirade is when the DVD highlights where the fans stand. At one point Corgan admits people want to hear the “old stuff.” The documentary uses a fashionable panned shot of Corgan reluctantly admitting on the right while, on the left, eager fans pronounce songs they want to hear. While there are rampant cries of “Zero” and “Bullet With Butterfly Wings,” “Tarantula” is never uttered.
The real problem with this DVD is that it’s schizophrenic. The first disc is inputted to cultivate this homespun, for the people attitude. The second disc is geared to show the prowess of a soon-to-be (again) legendary rock band. This premise falls short because both attitudes seem false, or at the very least, presumptuous. The second disc starts on a fine note, playing to its “only new material” image — until halfway through these less-than-incendiary musical moments when “Heavy Metal Machine” and “The Crying Tree of Mercury”— both from Machina — pop up, spoiling Corgan’s seemingly sincere desire to begin anew.
After almost two hours of documentary and 115 minutes of exclusive performance, I’m still asking, “Who the fuck is this band?” I’m not even sure the almighty Corgan has a real answer.
The thing is, I could have gotten behind the queasily anguishing emotion inputted in lyrical statements such as say, “The universe is full of black holes.” Statements like this are not outrageously dark or anything, but they do fit the Pumpkins image. I could have handled a concert DVD beginning with three acoustic performances in a row. It’s possible I could even have bought going back to realistic roots to find a new focus as a band (if these outlooks hadn’t been set against a backdrop of new and old catty drama).
Seriously, I’m all about rooting for the awkward kid, but not when the awkward kid used to be the captain of the football team and is just idiotically attempting to ignore his strengths. You can’t expect to go from a nineties angst band on a grandiose scale to a sad shadow of an angst band a decade later and expect people to empathize. You expect people to laugh; you expect to not be taken seriously; and the more you fight it and defend yourself, the harder the criticisms are dished out.
If anything, If All Goes Wrong portrays a distinct image of band desperately trying to rekindle the hit-and-miss brilliance of past days. If they never had it in the first place, they’re certainly not going to make it now, and a three-hour long DVD only serves to reaffirm this.