Amy Hanson, |
Tales of a Scorched Earth
(Helter Skelter, 2004)
The trinity of alternative rock was probably Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Smashing Pumpkins. Like their alter egos on mainstream rock, each band was much more than the sum total of its members. Likewise, they were not just about the music, and to understand and appreciate that music it is often essential to learn the background of the group.
With this book by Amy Hanson, a regular contributor to the All Music Guide and Goldmine, fans and novices can explore the phenomenon that was Smashing Pumpkins.
Coming out of the windy city like a hurricane, they were the voice of a generation of young people feeling let down in the 1980s. Their sound, their lyrics and their attitude struck chords and propelled them onwards.
Starting out in the grunge scene, Smashing Pumpkins smashed the mold. They had more to say and to a wider audience. They brought heavy metal music to the masses and produced some outstanding albums whose brilliance was echoed by sales.
With many of their contemporaries in alternative and mainstream suffering the after-effects of success, the Pumpkins kept it together. They carried on longer than most of their contemporaries, but circumstances would catch up even with them.
This book chronicles their story with in-depth research and a genuine interest in unearthing the soul of the band rather than the usual "cut and paste, dish the dirt" approach.
In chapters with headings that draw in even the casual reader -- like "Nose Picking and Screaming" or "The Ladder to Loathsome Infamy" -- Hanson unravels the legend and gives us intimate glimpses of a powerhouse band of an era.
The book will be a must for anyone who ever purchased a Smashing Pumpkins record or attended a gig. Most of them probably have a copy already. But even if you never enjoyed alternative rock or heavy metal, you could do a lot worse than reading this band biography. The story could translate to any genre; all band members are people and are tempted and inspired by similar things. If you are interested in how things work, how one band supersedes another or just the cut and thrust of the music business, this is a good investment.
If the book piques your interest there is an excellent discography included to allow the novice to catch up with the Pumpkins.
by Nicky Rossiter