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Smashing Pumpkins - 'If All Goes Wrong' DVD Review

Smashing Pumpkins DVD Chronicles Challenging 2007 Reunion

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Smashing Pumpkins - 'If All Goes Wrong'

Photo courtesy Coming Home Media.
If All Goes Wrong is a double-DVD collection chronicling the Smashing Pumpkins during their 2007 reunion tour. The first disc contains a documentary that follows Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan as he prepares the band for two residencies – one in Asheville, North Carolina, the other in San Francisco, California. The second disc features performances from the San Francisco shows. What emerges in the documentary is a portrait of Corgan as a moody artist who bravely (or foolishly) decided to use these tour dates as a workshop for new songs. Unfortunately, the concert DVD reveals the drawbacks to such a risky strategy.

Billy Corgan Gets the Old Group Back Together ... Sorta

After breaking up the band in 2000, Billy Corgan decided to reactivate the Smashing Pumpkins brand in ’07 to record a new album, Zeitgeist. With only drummer Jimmy Chamberlin remaining from the original lineup, Corgan hired new players to join them on tour – keyboardist Lisa Harriton, bassist Ginger Reyes and guitarist Jeff Schroeder. In another unusual move, Corgan decided to do a series of shows at two intimate venues rather than a formal cross-country American tour. If these choices didn’t raise enough eyebrows, Corgan also felt inspired to build his set lists around new songs he’d written during these residencies, trying them out on unsuspecting fans who were expecting to hear hits. These moves puzzled many of the faithful and drew mixed reviews from critics. If All Goes Wrong sets out to explain Corgan’s reasons for his actions and, ideally, offer some perspective on how successful the endeavor turned out to be.

A Portrait of Corgan That's Far Too Rosy

Though the documentary is directed by Jack Guilck and the concert DVD is directed by Daniel E. Catullo III, If All Goes Wrong very clearly seems to be shepherded by Corgan, who is the central figure throughout. That doesn’t mean that the film plays like an adoring tribute to Corgan’s formidable genius, flowing wit and devastating charm – while If All Goes Wrong unquestionably gives him the benefit of the doubt, it does show him to be a prickly, occasionally defensive artist who gets annoyed when fans won’t blindly embrace his new songs. Unfortunately, these moments of candor seem to be included so that viewers will think they’re seeing a fair-and-balanced overview of Corgan. But the accumulated journalists and fellow musicians, most notably Pete Townshend of the Who, there to defend him make clear that we should be impressed with Corgan’s courage for taking such a bold creative risk. There’s a lot to be said for songwriters who keep pushing themselves and refuse to become nostalgia acts, but the documentary’s largely rosy tone sacrifices depth and objectivity, settling for a heroic portrait rather than a compelling one.

A Concert Without Hits

Corgan’s commitment to challenging himself creatively caused some fans to be disappointed by the 2007 residencies, and the second disc of If All Goes Wrong honors that commitment by leaning heavily on songs that were written during the tour. Several of these new tracks are strong, like the acoustic numbers “The Rose March” and “Peace + Love,” especially after learning on the documentary disc what inspired Corgan to write them. The problem is that the 15 songs on the concert DVD – most from the post-Adore period when the band’s popularity had seriously collapsed – simply can’t live up to the best of the Pumpkins during their prime. Even the few familiar songs included are largely reinterpreted in ways that leave them sounding like Goth-heavy dirges that aren’t as stirring as the originals. Corgan’s right to express and challenge himself should be celebrated – but that doesn’t mean we have to automatically embrace his new material as easily as he seems able to do.

Release date – November 11, 2008
Coming Home Media

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