Follow TV Tropes


Music / The Smashing Pumpkins

Go To
The 2010-14 lineup.note
The "classic" lineup.note 

Homer Simpson: My kids love you, and thanks to your gloomy music they've finally stopped dreaming of a future I can't possibly provide.
Billy Corgan: Well, we try to make a difference.

Formed in 1988, The Smashing Pumpkins are an alternative rock band (with strong Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly leanings) from the Windy City consisting of singer/songwriter/dictator Billy Corgan. Okay, that's not true, there's three or four other band members (one of them being a female bassist), but Corgan's the songwriter, lead vocalist and the only member who's been present throughout the band's entire lifespan, so we'll start from there.

The band is known for its angsty lyrics combined with heavy metal guitars and dense production. Other features include an epic scope (perhaps best displayed by the music video for Tonight, Tonight) and Corgan's nasal singing voice. After sticking to mostly heavy rock with experimental / psychedelic / progressive elements for their first three albums, the Pumpkins swerved over into folk rock and electronica territory for one album (Adore), returning to form thereafter due to significant fan disappointment. They were also one of the first bands to experiment with online distribution: Machina II / The Friends and Enemies of Modern Music had a print run of exactly 25 vinyl records given to select friends, family and fans, with orders attached to rip and upload to the Internet for free.


Almost as tumultuous was the band's internal affairs. The band consisted originally of second guitarist James Iha, bassist D'arcy Wretzky, drummer Jimmy Chamberlin note  and (of course) Corgan, whose obsessive perfectionism drove the others to distraction; Iha and Wretzky were often Garfunkeled on albums, their parts re-done by Corgan note . Plus, Chamberlin, described by Iha and Wretzky as the only non-Corgan member who was actually important to the band's sound, was also an inveterate druggie. The result was a band plagued by Troubled Productions and often teetering on the edge of full-on Creator Breakdown. Then tragedy struck during the Mellon Collie tour, when session keyboardist Jonathan Melvoin died of a heroin overdose while shooting up with Chamberlin. Jimmy was fired, which might have had something to do with the electronica sound of Adore note . Unfortunately, people listen to the Pumpkins for their rock sound, and Adore was pretty much a wipe commercially (though it did receive some of the best reviews of the band's career). Chamberlin straightened himself out and rejoined, just in time for Wretzky to quit, replaced by Hole bassist Melissa Auf der Maur, and the band produced one more album (well, technically two) before announcing they would break up at the end of 2000. And, for a while, all was quiet in Pumpkinland.


In the interim, Corgan formed a new band, Zwan, with Chamberlin, Slint/Tortoise guitarist David Pajo, A Perfect Circle member Paz Lenchantin, and New Jersey-based guitarist Matt Sweeney. The Supergroup toured extensively and, in 2003, released the album Mary Star of the Sea, which was fairly similar in sound to Siamese Dream, but with more Power Pop and Post-Rock influence (perhaps unsurprising considering the band's pedigree). The album was well-received critically and debuted at #3 on the Billboard charts, selling 90,000 copies in its first week, but it quickly fell down the charts, and ultimately fell far short of the commercial performance of any Pumpkins album. The album actually reflected only one of two sides of Zwan, that of True Poets of Zwan. The other, Djali Zwan, was more acoustic and featured cellist Ana Lenchantin (Paz' sister). However, Djali Zwan never officially released any material, because personality conflicts between members resulted in the band's breakup. For a long time, Corgan refused to play Zwan material live and seemed to have nothing but vitriol towards some of his erstwhile bandmates in Zwan, though his stance has softened somewhat in recent years, and he began performing Zwan material again in 2014. It remains to be seen whether re-releases of Zwan material will follow; there is rumoured to be a rather substantial amount of music in the vaults.

In '05, Corgan released his first solo album, The Future Embrace. He then upstaged himself by, on the very same day, announcing that he was reforming the Smashing Pumpkins. He and Chamberlin were the only permanent members (Iha and Wretzky are on record as declining to participate, and Auf der Maur's offer to rejoin wasn't accepted), which also changed after the release of their first post-reunion album. Chamberlin's split was amicable this time; he has been replaced by the 19 year old newcomer Mike Byrne, and current bassist Nicole Fiorentino and guitarist Jeff Schroeder are also participating in-studio. The Pumpkins are once again experimenting with digital distribution; they planned to release Teargarden by Kaleidyscope [sic] song by song for free on their website. This concept was initially interrupted by 2012's Oceania, an album released the traditional way; with the subsequent release of 2014's Monuments to an Elegy and another album set for sometime in the near future, the experiment appears to be concluded.

The Pumpkins claim inspiration from bands like Queen, Boston, My Bloody Valentine and The Cure. They have, in fact, been almost deliberately unfashionable at times - Corgan has noted that his musical interests, such as Heavy Metal, Psychedelic Rock, and Progressive Rock, were completely out of fashion during the early '90s when the band first found its commercial success, particularly with critics.note  Some critics have even credited the Pumpkins with helping metal (re)gain critical legitimacy. What is really interesting, though, is that almost nobody claims to take any inspiration from them; just about the only bands/artists on record for that are My Chemical Romance, Panic! at the Disco, Marilyn Manson, Kill Hannah, Tegan & Sara, Nelly Furtado, and neo-shoegaze band Silversun Pickups (though considerably less than is often credited to them; the band hadn't even listened to Siamese Dream until after their first album). Oh, and they're on Guitar Hero, Rock Band and the soundtracks for several blockbuster movies, such as the first live-action Transformers excursion. Corgan was also featured as a playable character in Guitar Hero World Tour.

For years, Corgan doesn't seem to have spoken to Iha or Wretzky. However, Iha joined Corgan, Chamberlin, and Schroeder onstage on March 16, 2016 (Iha's birthday). Since then, he has made a few additional appearances with Corgan, including providing guest guitar/Mellotron for one song on Corgan's second solo album, 2017's Ogalia. In August 2017, Corgan also indicated that he had been speaking to Wretzky for the first time in years. Corgan and Chamberlin have both hinted that the original lineup may reunite, and while no official confirmation has been made, in January 2018, Corgan tweeted out a photo of himself, Iha, and Chamberlin in a recording studio. In February it was confirmed that both Iha and Chamberlin were back in the band. As for Wretzky however, she and Corgan had another fall-out, which resulted in her not being a part of the reunion.

Studio album discography:

  • Gish (1991) - the debut album, occasionally overlooked.
  • Siamese Dream (1993) - the mainstream breakthrough, mainly because of "Today" and "Disarm".
    • The two were remastered and reissued in 2011. Each had a bonus CD and a bonus DVD.
  • Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (1995) - the epic double album.
    • Remastered and reissued in 2012, with three bonus CD's and a bonus DVD.
  • Adore (1998) - the folk / electronica album.
    • Remastered and reissued in 2014, with five bonus CD's and a bonus DVD.
  • Machina / The Machines of God (2000) - the attempted comeback.
    • A remastered reissue was originally scheduled for 2015 but has been subject to Development Hell and/or Schedule Slip, evidently due to issues with litigious record companies. It is intended to include all of the material from Machina II (sequenced to fit Corgan's original concept of a double album, before Executive Meddling set in) as well as additional bonus material, presumably around the size of the Adore reissue.
  • Machina II / The Friends and Enemies of Modern Music (2000) - not a commercial release and, for that matter, was not intended to be; Corgan wanted Virgin Records to make the album free to anyone who had bought Machina I. When they declined, he just gave it to everyone.
  • Zeitgeist (2007) - the first post-reunion album.
  • Teargarden by Kaleidyscope - under construction.
  • Oceania (2012) - a 13 track "Album within an Album". Generally agreed to be their best post-Adore album.
  • Monuments to an Elegy (2014)
  • Shiny and Oh So Bright, Vol. 1 / LP: No Past. No Future. No Sun. (2018)

There's also a bunch of EP's and compilations like:

  • Lull (1991) - first EP. In Billy's words: the EP was really supposed to be a single but they tricked me.
  • Pisces Iscariot (1994) - compilation of BSides, demos and outtakes from the 'Gish' and 'Siamese Dream' era.
    • Remastered and reissued in 2012, with a bonus CD, a bonus DVD, a bonus cassette, and (in some versions) a bonus 7" single.
  • Vieuphoria (1994) - a video compilation of various live performances, mostly from the Siamese Dream tour, plus comedy bits (usually centered on friends The Frogs), interviews, and other features. It was reissued on DVD in 2002 with several extras, including a complete interview and some additional performance footage from 1994 that Corgan had found before the release date. Similarly, its soundtrack was initially released as a promo CD in 1994, titled Earphoria, and then officially released in 2002. Earphoria retains a segment where the band jokingly played part of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" during a medley of "Silverfuck" and "Jackboot", whereas the Vieuphoria footage had to edit that part out due to licensing costs.
  • The Aeroplane Flies High (1996) - box set including all the singles and B-sides from the Mellon Collie era.
    • Remastered and reissued in 2013, with a substantial amount of bonus material on each CD as well as one additional bonus CD and a bonus DVD.
  • Judas ∅ (2001) - more B-sides and rarities; released as a limited-edition bonus disc with the Greatest Hits Album Rotten Apples.
  • Rarities and B-Sides (2005) - Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Gathering just about every B-side and rarity for a total of 114 tracks. (It's not entirely complete; a few tracks had to be left off because of licensing issues. Many of these were included on the recent deluxe reissues of the albums, however).

"Despite all my tropes I am still just a rat in a cage":

  • Adults Are Useless: In the "Rocket" video, a group of kids build a rocket to travel to another planet to see the Pumpkins perform without as much as a word of questioning from their inattentive parents. They don't really seem to notice until they see the rocket take off.
  • Arc Words: "My one and only" on Mellon Collie. It shows up in "X.Y.U.," "Zero," "Lily (My One and Only)", and "By Starlight."
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: They have a few songs with faux-foreign titles. "La Dolly Vita" is one example. "La Vita" means "The Life" in Italian, but "Dolly" doesn't mean anything in Italian at all - it's an English word. (This particular title is probably a Pun-Based Title on La Dolce Vita.) Then again, since most of their song titles are Word Salad Titles anyway, this is par for the course.
  • Bald of Awesome: Billy, starting in the Mellon Collie era, although some may view it as Bald of Evil. The "Ava Adore" music video really supports this hypothesis.
  • Book-Ends:
    • The first track on Disc 1 of Mellon Collie, "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness," has a running time of 2:52, as does the last track on Disc 1, "Take Me Down." The first track on Disc 2, "Where Boys Fear to Tread," is 4:22, as is the last track on disc 2, "Farewell and Goodnight." Furthermore, the piano theme at the end of "Farewell and Goodnight" is a reprise of the eponymous instrumental (the theme also appears in a different key at the end of "Thru the Eyes of Ruby").
    • The same lines from the start of "Appels + Oranjes" from Adore are repeated near the end.
  • Broken Bird: D'arcy's persona for the Mellon Collie and Adore eras.
  • Call-Back: The opening lines of the heaviest song on Mellon Collie, "Tales of a Scorched Earth" ("farewell, goodnight, last one out turn out the lights"), are echoed in "Farewell and Goodnight," which is the sweetest and quietest song on the album, and is basically a lullaby.
    • Mellon Collie ends with a bedtime song ("Farewell and Goodnight"), on a disc titled "Twilight to Starlight". Adore opens in the same key and the first line is, "Twilight fades, through blistered Avalon."
  • Careful with That Axe:
    • "Bullet with Butterfly Wings": "Despite all my rage I'm still just a rat in a... CAAAAAAAGE!"
  • Celebrity Resemblance: Since Billy shaved his head, he looks like the twin of Björn Strid.
  • Christmas Songs: They have one, simply titled "Christmastime."
  • Cluster F-Bomb: The lyrics to the extremely serene "Spaced" actually have several examples of this, though because they're mixed quietly and heavily distorted, it's difficult to hear at first. That's actually among the least lyrically dissonant aspects of the lyrics; the song also appears to deal with issues like Parental Abuse, though in a rather oblique fashion.
  • Concept Album: Mellon Collie (which Corgan called "The Wall for Generation X", though is a rather loose concept about coming of age); both Machina albums (about a boy hearing the voice of God in the radio and fashioning himself into a Captain Ersatz version of Billy Corgan, fronting a rock band; chart by Billy here); and Teargarden (similar chart here).
  • Cover Version: "A Girl Named Sandoz" by The Animals, "Terrapin" by Syd Barrett, "Landslide" by Fleetwood Mac, "Dancing in the Moonlight" by Thin Lizzy, "You're All I've Got Tonight" by The Cars, "Clones (We're All)" by David Carron, "A Night Like This" by The Cure, "Destination Unknown" by Missing Persons, "Dreaming" by Blondie, the classic pop tune "My Blue Heaven", "Rock On" by David Essex, "Soul Power" by James Brown, "Sad Peter Pan" by Vic Chestnutt, and those are just the ones that made it onto albums and compilations.
    • The band has taken to performing "Space Oddity" by David Bowie during shows on the Oceania tour.
  • Conveyor Belt Video / The Oner: "Ava Adore". If it doesn't click in that it's a oner, the halfway point where the camera spins around and reveals the camera's track and all of the sets will do it.
  • Description Cut: Used in the Vieuphoria segment "Bugg Superstar" — After a clip of a fan speculating about the "cool, artsy life" James Iha must live, we then see James sleeping in a very messy bed with his clothes and sneakers still on.
  • Digital Piracy Is Evil: Subverted. As mentioned above, Machina II was intended to be leaked onto the internet for free. Teargarden by Kaleidyscope was intended to be released song-by-song for free on the band's website; they released ten songs before abandoning this method.
  • Doomsday Clock: Has a song of the same name on Zeitgeist.
  • Drone of Dread: The ending of "Obscured" is a sort of Played With example: it ends with droning guitar feedback, but it'll probably manage to escape being a Last Note Nightmare for most listeners because it's still pretty tuneful and somehow fits with the rest of the song.
  • Dude Looks Like a Lady: James Iha playing a Wholesome Crossdresser in the video for "Today."
    • Corgan's stage attire has often included dresses / skirts.
  • Epic Rocking: Quite a lot — "Rhinoceros" (6:30), "Drown" (8:17), "Hummer" (6:56), "Soma" (6:38), "Silverfuck" (8:43), "Starla" (11:01), "Porcelina of the Vast Oceans" (9:22), "Thru the Eyes of Ruby" (7:38), "X.Y.U." (7:07), "The Aeroplane Flies High (Turns Left, Looks Right)" (8:36), "Tear" (5:54), "Shame" (6:41), "For Martha" (8:17), "Glass and the Ghost Children" (9:56), "Heavy Metal Machine (Alternate Take)" (6:28), "In My Body" (6:44), "Oceania" (9:05), ...Oh, we could go on.
    • Live versions of "Silverfuck" were known to take the 9-minute song as far as 40 minutes. The 2013 reissue of The Aeroplane Flies High featured an officially released 34:48 version. "Transmission" could go on for a long time, too; the DVD on the reissue of Adore has a version that goes on for 22:52.
    • Billy's other band, Zwan, had "Jesus, I / Mary Star of the Sea", which went on for 14:04. Even if this example is counted as two songs, which it sort of is, "Jesus, I" clocks in at about 7:54 and "Mary Star of the Sea" at about 6:10, depending upon where one places the track division (one could also argue that about three minutes of this track are an interlude that doesn't properly belong to either song, but this particular division places them at the end of "Jesus, I").
    • And now, to dive fully down the rabbit hole of re-release bonus tracks.
      • Gish: "Starla (2011 mix)" (11:01); "Drown (alternate guitar solo)" (8:17); the DVD's live versions of "Window Paine" (6:25) and "Sookie Sookie" (6:35).
      • Siamese Dream: "Siamese Dream (Broadway rehearsals demo)" (6:18); "Hello Kitty Kat (Soundworks demo)" (6:14); "Ache (Silverfuck rehearsal demo)" (6:57); "Soma (instrumental mix)" (6:39); the DVD's live versions of "Soma" (7:21), "Starla" (9:21), "Hummer" (8:42), "Siva" (8:35), "Mayonaise" (10:29), "Drown" (8:25), and "Silverfuck" (13:30).
      • Pisces Iscariot: "Crawl (Gish sessions outtake)" (6:55); "Why Am I So Tired (live in studio demo)" (15:14); the bonus DVD's versions of "My Eternity" (7:00) and "Death of a Mind" (6:42). (There are actually several takes of a few tracks on the DVD, but for the sake of this list, each of them is counted as its own track.)
      • Mellon Collie: "X.Y.U. (take 11)" (7:11); "Porcelina of the Vast Oceans (live studio rough)" (9:06); "The Aeroplane Flies High (Turns Left, Looks Right)" (8:33); the live DVD's versions of "Thru the Eyes of Ruby" (8:06), "Porcelina of the Vast Oceans" (9:41), "Cherub Rock" (6:30), and "X.Y.U." (8:51).
      • The Aeroplane Flies High: in addition to the aforementioned version of "Silverfuck" (34:48), disc six's live versions of "X.Y.U." (7:38), "Porcelina of the Vast Oceans/Beautiful/Rocket medley" (12:33), and "Silverfuck" (13:54), and the DVD's live versions of "Thru the Eyes of Ruby" (7:56), "X.Y.U." (10:11), "Porcelina of the Vast Oceans" (12:14), and "The Aeroplane Flies High (Turns Left, Looks Right)" (10:31).
      • Adore: "For Martha (take 1/CRC demo)" (7:20); disc 6's live versions of "Tear" (7:01), "Blank Page" (7:52), "To Sheila" (7:17), "X.Y.U. Medley" (11:20), and "Transmission" (12:52); the DVD's live versions of "To Sheila" (7:11), "Tear" (9:59), "Thru the Eyes of Ruby" (10:15), "The Tale of Dusty and Pistol Pete" (10:20), "Shame" (9:17), "For Martha" (8:25), "Blank Page" (9:48), and the aforementioned "Transmission" (25:52).
      • Machina: We'll find out what examples there are if the record company ever lets Billy re-release it.
  • Fading into the Next Song: "Perfect" into "Daphne Descends."
    • "Where Boys Fear to Tread" abruptly cuts off into the radio static at the beginning of "Bodies."
  • Fake Guest Star: Mike Garson, from David Bowie's touring band, played piano/synthesizer for the band during the Adore and Machina Tours.
  • For Doom the Bell Tolls: "Disarm".
  • Gaia's Lament: Discussed vaguely in "Appels + Oranjes" from Adore, and more directly in "Doomsday Clock" from Zeitgeist.
  • Grand Finale: The last show at the Metro in 2000 arguably.
  • Grief Song:
    • "Glynis" is a tribute to Glynis Johnson, the bassist of the band Red Red Meat, who toured with the Pumpkins and died of complications from AIDS one year before the song was released on the HIV benefit album No Alternative.
    • Adore, being recorded in the wake of Corgan's mother's death from cancer, has a number. Obvious examples include "For Martha", "Once Upon a Time", and "Tear".
  • Grunge: They benefited heavily from the Alternative Rock wave out of Seattle to the degree of having their song "Drown" featured on the soundtrack to the Seattle film Singles alongside Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden, but they don't really fit into the scene because they had a more experimental sound, probably closer to pure Alternative Rock or even Alternative Metal. They went out of their way to distance themselves from the failing movement for their second album.
  • Heavy Meta
  • Heavy Metal: On the whole, they aren't exactly a metal band, but several of their songs ("Tales of a Scorched Earth", "X.Y.U.", "Zero", "Silverfuck", "The Aeroplane Flies High", etc.) are heavy enough to qualify as metal songs. Corgan is a huge metal fan; as mentioned above, he cited the late Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrell as his favourite contemporary guitarist and has been known to gush at length about the works of bands like Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Rainbow, Metallica, and others. Some reviewers have even credited the Pumpkins with helping to restore metal's respectability (or to make it respectable in the first place if you felt it'd never been considered respectable before the '90s).
  • I Am the Band: Billy Corgan, to the point where Corgan threw out Iha and Wretzky's parts on Siamese Dream and re-recorded them himself. This attitude while recording mellowed out for the next album but Corgan always kept this demeanor.
  • The Killer in Me: Mentioned by name in "Disarm."
  • Large and in Charge: Band leader Billy Corgan stands at a rather imposing 6'4.
  • Line-of-Sight Name: Corgan said he got the title of "Mayonaise" from looking in his fridge.
  • Loudness War: This has been a particularly bad problem starting with Machina (although not with Machina II, which was vinyl-only, so not as likely to be a victim of this; the only track on that that had a clipped master was "White Spyder", which was clearly done for artistic purposes). Zeitgeist and the reissues have also had problems with this, although strangely, the reissues have only been really bad on the bonus tracks (for example, the Adore remaster was DR8 on the stereo version of the album and had minimal clipping, while the mono version was DR5 with lots of clipping and the other bonus CD's had similar ratings and amounts of clipping). The earlier Pumpkins albums were mostly mastered with a fairly large amount of headroom, although the problem had started to creep up with The Aeroplane Flies High, which is clipped in some parts. It's also worth pointing that there's an "pre-mastered" version of Machina floating around the internets that has a substantially larger amount of dynamic range than the CD (and no clipping). Their usage of this trope also appears to have dropped off with time, as Oceania is a tolerable DR8 and has very little clipping.
  • Lyrical Cold Open: "Bullet with Butterfly Wings". You know the line. "The world is a vampire."
  • Lyrical Dissonance:
    • "Today" — musically (mostly) upbeat, lyrically sarcastic and based on Corgan's depression and suicidal thoughts.
    • "Spaced" is an even more extreme example, as mentioned above under Cluster F-Bomb
  • Lyrics/Video Mismatch: "Tonight Tonight". The video is essentially a shot for shot remake of the 1902 sci-fi short A Trip to the Moon, whereas the lyrics have strong a Growing Up Sucks theme.
  • Metal Scream: Corgan has a pretty sweet one at times, though somehow, even when he uses it, he usually still doesn't entirely escape Perishing Alt-Rock Voice. "Tales of a Scorched Earth" may be the most extreme example one.
  • Miniscule Rocking: "Pastichio Medley" combines this with Epic Rocking in a bizarre example of both tropes. It consists of literally dozens of song snippets stitched together to make a twenty-three minute piece. Most of the snippets last for only about ten seconds, but the last of them, "Die", consists of the same highly dissonant riff repeated for about seven minutes before reprising the riff of "X.Y.U." Several, though nowhere near all, of the songs in the medley were eventually released in their entirety on the re-releases of Siamese Dream, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, and The Aeroplane Flies High.
    • "17", the closing track to Adore, is seventeen seconds of lo-fi piano (excerpted from a piano-only take of their song "Blissed and Gone"), which abruptly ends mid-note. The booklet to the CD includes a short poem about how significant "17 seconds" can be.
  • Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: They can go anywhere from a 1 ("Tonite Reprise," "Take Me Down") to 8 ("X.Y.U.," "Tales of a Scorched Earth"). The aforementioned "X.Y.U" is arguably in a 9. But, for the most part, they stay in the 2 (Tonight Tonight) to 6 (Bullet with Butterfly Wings) range.
    • Adore ranks lower on the scale than other Pumpkins albums, with most of its songs being about 2-4.
    • Many live cuts push their respective songs' ratings up one or two notches. "Fuck You (An Ode to No One)" from their "last show" at the Chicago Metro in 2000 is an easy 9.
  • Mood Whiplash: Mellon Collie utilizes this quite effectively (and often):
    • The beautiful "1979" is followed by the Pumpkins' heaviest song, "Tales of a Scorched Earth". On vinyl, despite the re-arranged tracklisting, "Galapogos" precedes "Tales", keeping similar whiplash intact.
    • "Take Me Down" (the last track on Disc 1) is followed by "Where Boys Fear to Tread" (the first track on Disc 2).
    • "Thirty-Three" follows "Bodies."
    • "Stumbleine" is right before "X.Y.U."
  • Music Video Overshadowing: For "Today", a Lyrically Dissonant song about suicide.
  • Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly: They're a goth-dream pop-progressive-psychedelic-electronica-metal-shoegaze-alternative rock band.
  • Non-Appearing Title: Frequently.
    • Billy, regarding song titles: "Say you write a song about a chandelier, and the chandelier gives off light. And the light is the color red and red reminds you of the color you're not supposed to wear around a bull. So you name the song Cow."
    • "Rhinoceros" is slightly more sneaky about this. The chorus is "she knows, she knows, she knows." It sounds, however, like "she ''nose,'' she ''nose,'' she..."
    • Sometimes complicated by the song's Non-Appearing Title appearing in other songs (For example, "Where Boys Fear to Tread" is mentioned in "Cherry", albeit not quite in that exact order).
  • Not Christian Rock: Religious themes appear sometimes in the Pumpkins' music, but they are not a Christian rock band.
  • Older Than They Look: Billy's looked pretty much the same since 1996. His voice also hasn't changed at all, adding to his young appearance.
  • Obligatory Bondage Song: "Pug" and "Annie-Dog," which take very different views on the subject. While "Pug" is from the perspective of someone who enjoys the relationship, "Annie-Dog" is a narration of the horrible lifestyle of someone that may or may not be a prostitute.
  • Perishing Alt-Rock Voice: Corgan, even when doing the Metal Scream Careful with That Axe thing.
  • Post-Rock: An influence on their later material as well as on Zwan (not surprising since David Pajo of Slint was a member of the latter). Oceania has a few shout-outs to seminal post-metal band Isis, mentioned below.
  • Power Ballad: "Tonight, Tonight" might qualify.
  • Precision F-Strike: Machina's final track "Age of Innocence" contains the only instance of profanity on the entire record.
  • Progressive Rock: While this has never been their dominant style, they've had some tendencies of it throughout their career, and on the whole, it's probably only grown with time; Wikipedia actually classifies Oceania as a prog rock album (alongside psychedelic rock and the expected alternative rock. They still don't have a page on Prog Archives, though). A few songs on most of their other albums could also be categorised as prog, and Corgan has named several prog and prog-adjacent acts as influences (Pink Floyd, Rush, Queen, Electric Light Orchestra, David Bowie, etc.). Some of their songs ("Silverfuck", "X.Y.U.", "The Aeroplane Flies High", etc.) may also qualify as Progressive Metal.
  • Psychedelic Rock: One of Corgan's favourite music genres, and some of their work itself falls into this genre. Corgan has named seminal psychedelic acts like Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, and The Beatles as major influences on his work.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!:
  • Radio Song: "I of the Mourning" is told from the perspective of a man who seeks comfort in his radio and hears voices within that inspire him to start a band.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Melvoin's death is supposedly the inspiration for Sarah McLachlan's "Angel".
  • Rearrange the Song: Adore's sombre acoustic work and Machina's poppier songs got the "Pumpkins treatment" in concerts, showing just how anchored they were in Corgan's songwriting process.
    • Similarly, "Disarm", which appeared on Siamese Dream as an orchestral ballad, was given a much louder, more aggressive arrangement for some TV appearances promoting the album.
  • Re-Cut:
    • The vinyl version of Mellon Collie reorders the entire tracklist to better fit the Dawn / Tea Time / Dusk / Twilight / Midnight / Starlight naming of each of the six sides of vinyl. It also includes "Tonite Reprise" and "Infinite Sadness" on its final side.
    • Adore's 2014 reissue featured subtle differences in the mix, highlighting some of the electronic elements cut from the original pressing. This is most notable in "Ava Adore".
    • Machina, if the intended Re-Cut is ever Saved from Development Hell, will be reissued in its original double album format with the songs from Machina II included. Part of this will include a fake concert, much like Pink Floyd's The Wall did.
  • Refrain from Assuming:
    • It's "Bullet with Butterfly Wings", not "Rat in a Cage" or "The World is a Vampire".
    • It's "Ava Adore", not "We Must Never Be Apart".
    • It's "Disarm", not "The Killer in Me" or any variation thereof.
    • It's "Quasar", not "Right On".
    • It's "I of the Morning", not "Radio".
  • Retraux: The "Tonight, Tonight" music video.
  • Revolving Door Band: D'arcy Wretzky departed in 1999 during the production of Machina, both James Iha and D'arcy Wretzky left when the band originally broke up in 2000, and while Chamberlin returned on the reunion, he left after 3 years). The member roster has cycled through a variety of different instrumentalists. Iha returned in 2018, and Chamberlain returned in 2015.
  • Shaped Like Itself: This line from "Disarm": "What I choose is my choice."
  • Shout-Out:
    • Corgan mentioned that Gish was named as a reference to Lillian Gish, specifically because his grandmother would tell him that she lived in a town in "the middle of nowhere" and one of the most important things that happened was Gish riding through said town in a train. He also joked at one point that it was originally named "Fish" but changed the name to avoid confusions with Phish.
    • "Siva" was originally named "Shiva" as a reference to the Tantric concepts of Shiva and Shakti, but Corgan changed the name slightly because he didn't want people to assume it referred to the Hindu god Shiva.
    • Oceania, a notably metallic and post-rock inspired album, contains the songs "The Celestials" and "Panopticon". Post-metal band Isis' first albums, all from over a decade prior, were Celestial, Oceanic and Panopticon.
    • The video for "Tonight, Tonight" is one to A Trip to the Moon. Doubles as Whole Plot Reference.
    • The "Johnny" of "Tribute to Johnny" is American blues guitarist Johnny Winter.
  • Siamese Twin Songs: Several, though none of them are on Siamese Dream:
    • "Medellia of the Gray Skies" and "Porcelina of the Vast Oceans" were intended as this, but only "Porcelina" made the final album cut.
    • "Ugly" and "Beautiful" are thematic counterparts, but, as with the "Medellia" / "Porcelina" pairing, only the latter made the cut. Luckily, both of them made it to Rarities and B-Sides.
    • "Tonight Tonight" and "Tonite Reprise."
    • "Quasar" and "Panopticon."
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: They veer both ways on this scale but typically settle more on the idealistic side. Though some songs take a clearly cynical stance on love, grief, etc., they still maintain an underlying message of hope and faith in humanity.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Curiously, every well-known formation of the band had a woman playing bass, until Nicole left in 2014 and Billy picked up the slack.
  • Spell My Name with a "The". 'Smashing' is an adjective in this case.
    • Their name on their first album was in an arc, so they removed the "the" to make it more symmetrical. Confusion ensued.
    • The reason why it was also lacking a "the" on Siamese Dream is a mystery though, especially since the "the" shows up in the CD edition's booklet.
  • Step Up to the Microphone: D'arcy sings "Daydream" and most of "Dreaming" and adds additional vocals to "Beautiful", "Where Boys Fear to Tread," "We Only Come Out at Night", "Farewell and Goodnight" (which has lead vocals by all four band members) and "Dancing in the Moonlight". James did this occasionally on his own tunes and otherwise, but most of them got shunted to B-sides — "Take Me Down" was the only one that made it to Mellon Collie, "Blew Away" got relegated to Pisces Iscariot, "...Said Sadly" (with additional vocals by Nina Gordon) and the cover of "Terrapin" were released on the Rarities & B-sides compilation, and so on.
    • D'arcy had actually recorded numerous backing vocals for Mellon Collie, but in a Jerkassy move, Billy erased most of them.
  • Stop and Go: "Quasar."
  • Straight Gay: Nicole has been married to Meghan Toohey since 2012.
  • Surrounded by Idiots: It's hard to blame Billy for thinking so early on when the rest of his band was either on drugs or in destructive relationships for 10 years.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: After D'arcy Wretzky and James Iha declined to participate in the second incarnation of the band, Billy replaced them with... Another female bassist and an Asian-American guitarist.
    • Paz Lenchantin and David Pajo played these roles in Zwan.
    • Every official bassist has been a woman. D'arcy's replacement was Melissa Auf der Maur, then the reunited lineup has had Ginger Pooley and Nicole Fiorentino, while the 2 men who have been bassists on tours aren't considered official members.
  • Three Chords and the Truth: Averted. You try building six-plus-minute songs with forty-plus layers of guitar overdubs. (This may be part of the reason for Corgan's frequent Creator Breakdowns.)
  • Title by Number: "1979", "Zero", "Thirty-Three", and "17" (more if you count songs that were never officially released).
  • Title Drop: Too many straight examples and aversions to list here. Examples of near-title drops, however, include "Where Boys Fear to Tread" (which contains the line "to tread lightning / and ink the lavender skies" but the full title is never said) and "Jellybelly" (which contains the line "down in the belly of the beast").
  • Uncommon Time: Perhaps most notably in "Untitled", which switches meter signatures literally every couple of measures for most of the song (being mostly comprised of patterns like 3+3+4/4 and 3+3+4+4/4) and has several bars of 5/4, but present in other songs as well. "Quiet" throws in some bars of 7/4 in between bars of 3/4 and 4/4; "Set the Ray to Jerry" has verses in 10/4; "Innosense" ends with several measures of 5/4; and that's undoubtedly not all. It's also worth pointing out that, in a borderline example of this trope, "Let Me Give the World to You" uses seven-measure patterns in its verses.
  • "Untitled" Title: A song previously unreleased song that appeared on their Greatest Hits Album is officially listed as "Untitled".
  • Unusual Euphemism: "I took a Virgin Mary axe to his sweet baby jane... Coiled my tongue 'round her bumblebee mouth."
  • Verbing Nouny
  • Video Full of Film Clips: "The End is the Beginning is the End", off Batman & Robin.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: "X.Y.U." combines this vocals that alternate between perishing and screaming to bizarre and terrifying effect.
  • Word Salad Titles: Billy has frequently given songs, seemingly nonsensical titles, like: "Geek U.S.A.," "Silverfuck," "Whir," "Galapogos," "Muzzle," "Stumbleine," "X.Y.U.," "Slunk," "Bye June," "Plume," "Pissant," "Purr Snickety," "Honeyspider," "Set the Ray to Jerry," "Meladori Magpie," and "Pulseczar," to name a few. Typically, these titles do mean something, or relate to the song somehow, but in a roundabout way.
  • Xtreme Kool Letterz: Some of Corgan's song titles are based on misspellings, like: "Mayonaise," "Siva," and "Appels + Oranjes."

"Let's all go out and buy fur coats!"

Alternative Title(s): Smashing Pumpkins


Example of: