I happened to hear the new Smashing Pumpkins single, “Tarantula,” on KEXP while I was at work yesterday. It prompted me to wonder, WHY DOES BILLY CORGAN KEEP KILLING MUSIC?

Sure, I loved The Smashing Pumpkins between the ages of 10 and 13. At that age, I identified with the vague rebellion implied in lyrics like “Despite all my rage/I am still just a rat in a cage” and even thought that “Disarm you with a smile/And cut you like you want me to/Cut that little child/Inside of me and such a part of you” sounded kind of romantic. I’m not proud of it, but the words seemed pretty profound to me at the time. It makes sense: the middle school years are defined by misdirected anger, and any notion that one may have of romance in seventh grade is likely to involve a lot of sadomasochistic, self-pitying sentiments.

Billy Corgan is now 40 years old, and he still hasn’t gotten over this crap. “Tarantula” sounds like an outtake from either of the Machina albums, which weren’t so hot in the first place. And the lyrics? Oh boy. “Yes, I’m real/’Cause someone gave us sound”? Non sequitur. “The spoils of all I got were left to scrounge.” Anyone want to take a stab at diagramming that sentence? Then there’s, “I don’t want to be alone,” which Corgan howls repeatedly towards the end of the song.

It’s been a long slide since Siamese Dream, the band’s career highlight if you don’t think much about the lyrics. At that point, they were still stealing enough from shoegaze to create interesting soundscapes. The horrifically-named Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness had some high points (again, if you ignore the lyrics) but was ultimately flabby and self-indulgent. Then came Adore–remember Billy Corgan in the “Ava Adore” video, looking like Uncle Fester in a floor-length black dress? The Machina albums play like self-parody. Then there was Zwan (no explanation needed). I didn’t even bother with the Corgan solo album.

And now this?

The new album is going to be called Zeitgeist. I seriously doubt that Corgan knows the meaning of that word. The American Heritage Dictionary (2006) defines “zeitgeist” as: “The spirit of the time; the taste and outlook characteristic of a period or generation.” And the Smashing Pumpkins? Perhaps the spirit of 12-year-olds across the country a decade ago… but at this point, one can only hope that the album title is a self-effacing joke.

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