The Smashing Pumpkins – Starla

Pisces Iscariot
Year :
Silversun Pickups / Zwan / Sunny Day Real Estate

Everyone, at some point, claims that they did something before it became popular. It might be performing some sort of action, saying a particular phrase, or even having someone take a stupid picture of you in a stupid place doing something stupid then giving it all a name. Sometimes, this is true. Someone had to be first, and it’s possible multiple people did these things before finding out about other people doing it. Other times, it’s people who missed out on a passing trend and either legitimately or bitterly long to be included. I’m sure I’ve been guilty of the latter a few times, but there are two concrete examples of a time when I was on the cutting edge of modern culture. One of these two is the use of the word “epic”, which I’ll get to in a moment. First, I need to tell you about the fist bump.

My dad and I created the fist bump. I’m not even sort of joking. It was the mid-to-late ’80s, and I was maybe 4 or 5. There are claims of earlier uses of the fist bump, but my father and I had never seen them, and it certainly wasn’t as popular then as it is today. We used it as a celebration for a positive outcome, usually sports related, the Celtics being the cause of the majority of knuckle-bruising endeavors. I’m not sure how someone would go about trademarking this sort of thing, but the way we see it, every instance of a fist bump should net my dad and I thirty-five cents. We don’t ask for much.

Now, I’m not looking for any compensation on the use of epic. It was a word long before I ever got around to using it. Some of you younger readers, however, may not remember a time when it was a word only used to describe fantastically long books written by dead people. That was until I was in high school, and some friends and I started having conversations about the lengths of various songs and albums. I loved tracks that could hold my attention well past the 5-minute mark, and any album that help up after over an hour was fine by me. As such, I listened to a lot of The Smashing Pumpkins back then.

Now, just because something has a long run time doesn’t automatically mean I like it, but there is an extra level of appreciation I have for an artist or band that can keep me hooked for extended amounts of time. Few bands do this as well as The Smashing Pumpkins, and “Starla” may be the best example of this. It’s one of the longest songs in the band’s catalog at just over 11 minutes, and it does surprisingly little over that time. The song rarely moves away from it’s slowly ascending main hook, and even the final build-up through the end is just a variation of that same hook, but “Starla” never gets old. Corgan slowly increases the volume, fuzz, and intensity from start to finish, letting you work yourself up along with the song as it builds, always going a step higher when just when you thought there was nowhere else to go.

The band certainly has its detractors, and Billy Corgan hasn’t done himself many favors over the years when it comes to building goodwill towards his band, but the fact remains that the Pumpkins owned the mid-’90s. Just ask one of the 300,000+ people (Hi!) who bought The Aeroplane Flies High, a 5-disc box-set of expanded singles. (I have mixed feeling about the further expanded reissue. It seems like Billy Corgan has become increasingly concerned with the legacy of The Smashing Pumpkins, and while I don’t blame him nor do I feel that the band has gotten enough credit over the years for good they actually were, a deluxe reissue of what was basically a deluxe reissue in the present tense seems like an odd decision.)

Whatever your memories or feelings are of Corgan and The Smashing Pumpkins, turn up the volume and let it all go for (more than) a few minutes, it’ll be worth it.

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Matthew Belair (@14Belair42) grew up on the classic rock of his parents and the 90s alt-rock of his older sister before discovering other genres to love, all of which are cool, hip, and in no way embarrassing to admit publicly.

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