Smashing Pumpkins – Bullet With Butterfly Wings (EP)/Zero (EP)

June 24, 2006

There are few bands that I have seen that have more B-Sides than Smashing Pumpkins. It’s actually kind of ridiculous. The band actually only made one b-sides collection, and that was released right before Siamese Dream and was named Pisces Iscariot. For the record, the band also has a lot of really really good b-sides. During the span of the Mellon Collie era, the band released quite a few EP-single thinies. I’m pretty sure there were five. If I’m right and there were five, I think they were for Bullet With Butterfly Wings, Zero, Tonight Tonight, 1979, and Thirty Three. I could only grab a few through the library, but what I got I was very pleased with. I have to say, for one of my favorite bands, despite the fact that fans have a reason to be angry about the silence as of late, they can surely be satisfied by such a huge amount of songs that float around on EPs, Singles, bootlegs, etc. The band almost invites people to become obsessed, because there is so much to be obsessed about.

The Bullet EP is pretty good, if nothing else because it captures the band in all sorts of different states. More than half the disk is covers, which is kind of cool, because the band doesn’t actually do a whole lot of covering elsewhere. But yeah, the title track is obviously golden. A real classic of radio, and probably the bands most popular song. …Said Sadly is also a really good song, and was actually written by James Iha, the bands guitar player (well, along with Billy Corgan). He has always sort of been my favorite pumpkin, for some reason. Yeah, Billy is always up there writing stuff and singing and playing guitar, but once and a while you get a knockout almost folky or country performance from James. I have Let It Come Down, his solo album, and it’s really good. I might do a review on that later. It’s just that good. Anyway, this is a duo with some girl. Doesn’t really matter who she is. This might have faired better on Mellon Collie than Take Me Down. It would be a better transition into the next disk, I’m sure of that. It’s a beautiful song, but hey, most of the stuff he writes is good. Just very calm and country-ish. I have to admit, it’s sort of a guilty pleasure to listen to this kind of song, but I can’t help but grin when I hear it.

Clones (We’re All) is a happy cover, maybe the best on this disk. It plugs along at a very happy pace and features a lot of the signature guitar effects of the band, with this little quick chords in the background. Billys voice is in really good shape here, and I think that’s great. I mean, I can see why this was left off of Mellon Collie, because it is just kind of built like a b-side is ususally built, but it’s still just so good. That’s the kind of thing that I mentioned before about SMP. They have such a vast number of b-sides and outtakes and live stuff that it’s hard to keep track of. Some of the best b-sides aren’t even on EPs or singles. But this one is very good. A Night Like This has James on vocals again. It’s okay, it’s kind of got a quiet more minor thing going on. And I really admire the drum part here for some reason. The drums are always so essential in SMP tunes, even if they are simple.

Destination Unknown is a very electronic song. It kind of progresses in the same way that Clones does. I like it, but not really that much. It gets weird later on. And Dreaming is very very good. It has both D’arcy and Billy on vocals. I kind of like D’arcys voice. The lesser known knockout track on Gish was Daydream which also had her voice, and that was just fabulous. This is sort of a trance inducing electronic song, and I like it a lot.

The Zero EP is pretty good too. Of course the title track is phoenomenal, probably my favorite SMP song ever. Billy Corgans sneering voice works perfectly to make this the most grindingly tough song the band has ever made in my opinion, and even makes the song a little sensual, if you can believe it. But no one would ever buy a Smashing Pumpkins EP for a track that is already on an essential album. God is a good one, yes. It is sort of like Zero in some ways. It seems to be in the same key, or at least have simmilar ideas, but with that comes some kind of sacrifice. Even if you have the same ideas as Zero, it’s impossible to be better than Zero. So it doesn’t really fall flat on it’s face, but it fumbles. The entire “God” lyrical score gets old after a little while, but it’s catchy and a fan favorite.

Mouthes of Babes is okay. It’s got a typical progression, but the tune is sort of more trudging. It’s good though. But not really that great. It just seems like nothing that can’t be heard on Mellon Collie. But the real standout tune here is Tribute To Johnny, basically a tough and glorius jam session. No lyrics here, and that’s good. The dueling rhythm and solo guitars make this essential material, and a song that easily should have been on Mellon Collie. It’s honestly enough to sell this EP, at least I think. I mean, it’s just really really good. When I get into my oldschool Nintendo mood, I always whip out Battletoads for GB, and this is by far the best tune to play that game to. You just feel like you want to put on a cape and go around fighting crime and riding a motorcycle when you hear this. The gritty guitar riffs later on are gold.

Next is Marquis In Spades. Basically just another Mouths of Babes, really. Not that standout. I’m not even going to give this one more than a few sentences, because it’s just not standout. It’s good, yeah. I mean, it’s great. So is Mouths of Babes, but they are simmilar and not really that individual to get that much attension. Pennies is also another gem. This probably deserved to be on Mellon Collie too. But it almost seems out of place here. To complement the anger in the other tracks? No, this is way to gentle to be on this EP and a switchup would have been good, but honestly, no one cares about how an EP “flows.” They care about the actual songs on the EP. And this is just fantasticly beautiful. Even the lyrics are touching. It seems like even though Billy, or more likely his fictional character, has moved on from a relationship, he still shows respect and reminisces gently. “I always loved you so/especially when you go/all the world must know.” That’s just classic SMP, and the most classic SMP is the quieter stuff that has more room to move.

Pastichio Medley is sort of tacked onto the end of the EP as a little bonus to fans. But it’s hardly necessary, even for the most hardcore of fans. It is basically snipits of what seems like fifty or so SMP b-sides and outtakes that never made it onto any EPs or albums or anything. Most of them just seem like jam sessions with names, but that is okay. The fact that the band could put a least a name on any given jam session is a good sign that they cared enough about their own music to at least put it somewhere. So maybe if you are really really hardcore into Smashing Pumpkins, this might be a little bit cool, but also useless considering you can’t really find more than a few of these tracks, if any, anywhere else. So it doesn’t really satisfy. I would have much rather had a full length high quality b-side than this, and I’m sure there was enough at the time to spare one, or at least a full version of one of the songs presented here.

Scaling the SMP library for bad songs is hard enough. But searching it for bad b-sides is admittedly harder than you would think. Yes, if you dig deep enough you will find lower quality stuff on Mashed Potatoes and other collections, but the band just had a solid career, and that even shows in their lesser known songs.

So what of a Smashing Pumpkins reunion later in the year? Billy Corgan is killing me, man. I’m trying to be patient. It’s not like I have staged any protests or anything, or even done anything more than mutter to myself about how Mr. Corgan needs to, at the very least, keep the fans posted more. I know something is going on. I have heard rumors that Billy has signed on to a major label as SMP, and the new site up at smashingpumpkins.com is official enough to let us know that Billy is at least in some sort of contract. But the waiting is always the hardest part. Beyond that, the fact that James Iha and D’arcy Wretsky may not be involved hardly constitutes this as a reunion. Actually, as a friend of mine said, it doesn’t AT ALL. It’s really more of a get-together. Of course, I am excited whenever Billy creates music, but I think his ego and attitude tends to get in the way of what people think of him. I’m sure everyone would be less annoyed if he was on better terms with people other than Jimmy, and if he was keeping us posted more.

Aaaaaanyywaaay… I’ll be pleasently suprised either way. The only ways I would not be pleased with the situation are if he ends up not releasing anything at all (very unlikely) and if he releases utter crap, and knowing Billy, this hasn’t even really crossed my mind.

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