The Smashing Pumpkins
1979 ep
/virgin; 1996/

yeah, that's right.

I had been thinking about writing something about the 1979 ep for quite a while. Lately i have been playing a very very old smashing pumpkins tape in my car's radio and well, i guess it's time.

Back in 1996, right in the middle of teenagehood and highschool, I was a big Smashing Pumpkins fan. And one my favourite records was the 1979 ep i had bought at a local shopping center. Surprisingly enough, it's one of the few records by the band i can still enjoy listening nowadays. The others i have listened too much. They remind me of too many things i don't really feel like remembering. 

So, unsurprisingly enough, i was an outcast, not because people didn't like me, but because i didn't like them. There were only two things i liked: first was the smashing pumpkins and the other was a friend i was secretely in love with. Turns out she fell for the French equivalent of a quarterback. I remember nothing of the following months but those six songs playing in repeat. Life was hard for a not-really-cute-yet, girl-lovin' girl. We didn't have Avril Lavigne back then. All we had was Courtney Love, and I can think of a thousand better role models. 

Corgan and his Corganites had recorded way too many songs during the Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness sessions, many of which ended up on the five eps that followed the critical and popular acclaim of the band's double album. For fans those eps were a chance to explore the musical territory of the band a little further, continuing the journey started with Mellon Collie. 

Of course, I realise it today, the Tonight Tonight ep was filled with bad folk, the Thirty Three b-sides were mostly bad and Zero was backed with sub-par metal anthems. Only the 1979 ep still works as a record. There are 4 songs by Corgan (including 1979) and two songs by James Iha. Let's start with the James Iha songs. He's not a great songwriter, but the two songs on this ep are thoroughly enjoyable. "The Boy" is a power pop anthem (that boy/ the boy/is in love) and "Believe" is simply cute. Corgan's songs are the most interesting though. He has gathered dark new wave jewels to back up 1979. "Ugly" is a palm-muted guitar and a drum machine, darker than most of Corgan's pieces, mainly because he sounds relentlessly honest in it (i know i'm nothing/ because i'm ugly.) It's the kind of Smashing Pumpkins song people who don't like the Smashing Pumpkins like. "Cherry" is a ghostly midtempo ballad, haunted by cloudy guitar lines and discreet drums. and if you lose yourself/ could you take me too ? My favourite song on this ep is the last one. "Set the Ray to Jerry" is a bass guitar and groovy drums coming from underneath, like My Bloody Valentine in a swamp, with Corgan singing "and i want you/ and i need you/ cause all you are is brand new" as if the only thing that mattered was the sound of it.

I think there are many reasons why this ep is one of the best things the band has released in its career. Corgan had decided to gather b-sides thematically, depending on the single, and for 1979 he has spotted both ends of the song's spectrum, power pop and new wave, and put five great songs that completely fit. Also, these songs are b-sides. They sound barer and more honest than the bombastic albums tracks. 

Also, it was a very early hint, pointing at what the band was going to do next, new wave with drum machines, hazy atmospheres, no more distortion. This very narrow frame of time showcased what was probably the band at its best, they wrote pieces such as Lost Highway's "Eye" or Adore's "Daphne Descends," without yet falling into the vicous circle of self-indulgence that would break them down. It's nice to see that, despite all its flaws and stupidities, the band i used to love was eventually worth a bit of the loving.   

-Barbara H

/mar 1st 2004/