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Old 12-01-2019, 11:09 PM   #1
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Posts: 17,374
Lightbulb By the end of 2019 I will listen to and review a post-reunion release I haven't heard

Because ffs it really seems like I chose the worst time to tune out of Pumpkins activity and I feel like I'm missing out on some potentially better-than-average-quality music.

I have already subjected myself to the following:

American Gothic
If All Goes Wrong
Tinted Windows
Teargarden by Kaleidyscope Vols 1 2 and 3
Monuments to an Elegy

I'd like to give Zeitgeist a revisit and review as well, before I review a more recent album, to mentally and emotionally prepare myself for this task. Especially if fucking Siddartha wins the poll.

I don't recommend listening to Siddhartha.

But if you do, don't think about it. Don't analyse it. It is futile. Definitely don't listen to it one sitting. In writing this review, I had to drink several shots of whiskey to lower my inhibitions enough to remind myself of this. So that I wouldn't think about it, and just write.

Siddhartha -- the concept, the performance, the box set -- is emblematic of Smashing Pumpkins and Billy Corgan in the 2010s.

Here's what you already know about it:
* It's eight fucking hours of Billy Fucking… sorry, William Patrick Fucking Corgan dicking around with a giant vintage modular fucking synthesizer as an experimental pet project.
* The performance was shot on an iPotato and livestreamed to YouTube by Jonathan Fucking Monte, which is what most of us brave enough to subject ourselves to this thing have had to resort to.
* Corgan's own recording of the performance was independently released as an (admittedly well designed) 5LP box set nearly three years later, in a limited edition of 500 numbered pressings, half of which were signed by the bald man himself.

It's the most bizarre, stranger-than-fiction idea he has ever hatched from his egg head. There is no way that he had any idea what he was doing. It's utterly absurd. I really hope that Billy didn't expect anyone to take it as seriously as people have, because I can't take it seriously. The more I analyse it, the harder it is to get any amount of enjoyment out of it. It is more entertaining to read about the history of this thing for eight hours than to listen to it. And until now, I probably have spent more time reading about it than listening to it.

When I say, "I don't recommend listening to Siddhartha", what I mean is, I don't recommend listening to Monte's livestream recording. It contains just about every undesirable flaw that one would usually make some amount of effort to avoid. Look, I know it's obvious that the performance itself is nothing special. It's no Tangerine Dream or Brian Eno. But it's not just the audio quality that doesn't do the performance justice. It simply doesn't come off as an appropriate way to experience it.

Imagine if the performance hadn't been livestreamed. It could have been legendary. More legendary than it already is. There are few people who have witnessed the entire performance in person, because patrons of the teashop venue were rotated in and out. There is simply no way that something that is EIGHT FUCKING HOURS LONG is should be experienced in one sitting. Let alone through the digital shit filter of the livestream.

This is, I think, where most of the criticism that Siddhartha gets is coming through. People judge Siddhartha by focussing too much on its length. And that's not very fair. At least if you had the box set, you're forced to flip or change the record every twenty minutes or so, or you could even just take a break, like you would at the end of a chapter in a book, and listen to something else, or nothing at all. If it were released on CD or digitally, those breaks aren't as suggestive. Even in the performance, there was an intermission of about ten or twenty minutes half way through. I didn't know that there was one until I listened through it. Now the most memorable thing about the whole thing is "Airplane Mode", and it's thanks to its inclusion on the livestream.

You'd also probably be able to hear the audiobook. I haven't read Siddhartha, and I hoped that I might be able to absorb it in its audiobook form, along with the performance.

There are plenty of sounds which are downright irritating. There is also plenty of potential for it to be a meditative experience, if you allow it. I can recall the first hour being reasonably pleasant, and thinking, "hey, this actually sounds pretty interesting, but I really wish I had a vinyl rip". The second hour probably couldn't be saved by any level of audio quality. Billy's lack of expertise becomes more glaringly apparent as he struggles to develop meaningless arpeggiated beeps. It makes me wonder if this is all a learning experience for him, and he wanted us to bear witness to it. Things seem to fall into place better in the second half, after the interlude. Jeff's ambient guitar playing is interesting. He gets an unfair amount of criticism in general. He's a talented guitarist.

About three hours in, I deleted all of my notes describing the sounds I was hearing when I realised there was nothing enticing about them, and that I still had five more hours worth of sounds to get through. It felt pointless repeating the same face-value descriptions you could find in other reviews. The experience itself, the self-awareness I felt, that I was actually listening to this stupid thing, was more worthwhile to analyse. But even then, it's so difficult to describe. It's not quite a spiritual journey like Hesse's titular character had (or at least, I assume he had, I couldn't tell because of the garbage audio quality) but it is undoubtedly a journey. It just doesn't lend itself to being concentrated on. Don't think about it. Definitely don't listen to it in one sitting. It's just William Patrick Corgan fucking around with a vintage synth. Just let it be.

I wish I gave myself more time to craft a more considered review but it's 7:30pm on New Years Eve, I'm drunk, I have festivities to attend, and I desperately want to put this whole thing behind me.

Last edited by Shallowed : 12-31-2019 at 03:02 AM.

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