Musicophilia Daily

[Audio] – Smashing Pumpkins – “Starla” (1992)

Posted in Audio by Soundslike on April 24, 2009

Smashing Pumpkins – “Starla” (1992)

Billy Corgan has grown down, into a pathetic satire of a 15-year-old internet Goth, a 40-something grade-A loser: yeah yeah.  But back circa “Drown” and “Glynis” and this track, for a brief couple of years, he really had a fantastic sound going.  And I don’t just mean the impressively grand rock styling–I mean the sounds themselves.  The phasing, the distortions, the endless-sustain sounds he could create shaped my young ears toward an awareness of production-as-creation as much as ‘Pet Sounds’ or ‘Sgt. Peppers,” and made me think about dynamics and staging and all the stuff that eventually lead me far, far away from anything one would call “rock music”.  But you know–coming back to this epic after many years, I find I actually like it a lot on its own terms.  I’m not sure what any of it means, but I think it has an energy that doesn’t boil down to mere “rawk” pyrotechnics–in its own, utterly artless/funkless way it’s actually quite a groove, emphasising the expansion that comes with repetition as much as any disco or Reich.

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7 Responses

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  1. rich said, on April 25, 2009 at 8:42 am

    yay bongos

  2. ohrensause said, on April 25, 2009 at 10:43 pm

    i didn’t know this song and it made me realize that i was wrong about corgan and his band in my post on gish, my favourite album of 1991 where i stated that besides gish and mellon collie they didn’t release anything worthwhile. this is a great, distorted, noisy sound and i understand that it has shaped your listening. i don’t get your reflection about meaning. i don’t think there is any music which means something on its own. lyrics, eg dylan’s, may or may not mean something but music? of course it can mean something for the listener, depending on circumstances like time and setting. but that’s not what you meant, i suppose.

    • Soundslike said, on April 30, 2009 at 9:58 pm

      Oh–Sorry Alex, I didn’t realise “Alex” and “Ohrensause” were the same. Anyway–yes, I did miss this comment before, sorry. As for “meaning”–I think we agree. I don’t actually worry often about denotative meaning, or what the artist “intended,” and instead I just trust my gut and my ears. I suppose it’s why I tend to ignore (not intentionally, they just rarely register with me) lyrics–for me it’s almost always about the sound, the feeling (physical, maybe emotional), the energy, the risks taken, the rewards found. I was basically joking in this case about Corgan, who seems like a character who really thinks he’s onto something, as far as “meaning” goes; though I find him pretty insufferable. But it proves your point, really–even some intellectual moron egotist like Corgan can still evoke a meaningful experience, when he gets the sounds right. As far as what “Starla” evokes–I guess I was also just saying, I don’t know what it evokes even for me, it’s so far outside of the sorts of sounds I usually engage these days–but that I like it anyway, even as different a person as I am now than when I was 14 and first loved this song.

      • ohrensause said, on May 1, 2009 at 8:14 am

        thanks for the long reply and sorry that i confused you with two different logins, the login procedure of wordpress to me seems a little awkward, if i am not logged in i have to go via, i cannot login at my blog or anybody’s blog. concerning music and lyrics i react similarly to them as you. first i listen to the tune and the sound and if they don’t please me i will never listen to the words. but – here comes the difference – when a piece of music grabs me for whatever reason, the hook, the “new” sound, the interplay of the instruments, whatever, i try to decipher the lyrics. there is something about the lyrics that distracts from the music that maybe even subtracts from it but on the other hand a voice gives the individual touch to a song and the words it utters even more so. i like stories behind songs which are usually stories behind the lyrics. i find that they make the music more human. i didn’t get your joke about corgan and his insisting on meaning, sorry, but it makes a lot of sense now. a last question concerning the pumpkins. what did you think of gish? when it came out for a moment it was the cd i listened to most. always on headphones late at night after having drunk and smoked. there seemed to be something mind-expanding about it. together with loveless it was the album which made me get into indie rock. in the eighties i had mainly listened to nick drake, joni mitchell, neil young, keith jarrett and records on ecm in general.

      • Soundslike said, on May 2, 2009 at 2:26 pm

        When I was 13-16, I liked everything the Smashing Pumpkins did between ‘Gish’ and the singles for ‘Siamese Dream’ (such that at this point ‘Pisces Iscariot’ might be my favorite album). I loved the songs “Glynis,” “Starla,” “Drown,” and “Purrsnickety,” especially. ‘Mellon Collie’ I liked, but it took more effort–I started mixing it down to a single disc with some of the better b-sides from the album, and eventually it had too much pomp and posing, not nearly as much of the good production of ‘Siamese Dream’. I’ll have to give ‘Gish’ a listen, haven’t heard it in so long. Smashing Pumpkins were sort of the second “modern” band that really excited me after REM–I liked Nirvana pretty well I guess, but before Smashing Pumpkins I mostly listened to “oldies,” classical music, the Beatles, and the folk/singer-songwriter stuff my parents played for me as a kid. Radiohead replaced Smashing Pumpkins, and then after ‘OK Computer’ the rest of the musical world exploded for me (after dallying with indie, without much success, circa 1998-1999). So I’m sure Smashing Pumpkins affected my trajectory. As far as lyrics go–I did spend a couple years (ages 17-19 or so) worshiping Elvis Costello and Joni Mitchell, and their wordplay and dexterity does impress me, but it didn’t make a lasting conversion of me to lyrics-listening.

  3. alex said, on April 30, 2009 at 9:40 pm

    is there anybody at home here? as much as i find your music taste fascinating and as much as i like your concise, insightful writing i hesitate commenting as i always have the feeling you don’t care for comments as you seem to know everything already. probably i am totally wrong but this is an impression i got. there is no exchange, no real communication here which i find sad. was my question so dumb? i hope you will keep up the blogging though i fear that you will stop soon. i have been checking for updates this week though i knew there weren’t any in the feed reader. i guess you have hooked me.

    • Soundslike said, on April 30, 2009 at 9:51 pm

      I’m really sorry you got those impressions–I’d love to hear from people, their thoughts, suggestions, ideas, etc. I’m very far from knowing everything–I know only enough to know how much there is yet to know. Whatever question you asked, I’m sure it wasn’t dumb–but I’m afraid I must have missed it or I’m sure I would’ve answered. I’d love to have real communication, but I’ve more or less given up hope of that, because people rarely if ever comment either here or at the mix blog ( ), though plenty of people seem to listen/download. I’ve just sort of accepted that people are shy or they just like to listen to the music–which honestly I can’t blame them, if I hadn’t been told that writing a blurb about the music helps people decide what to download/listen to from the blogs, I wouldn’t say much at all myself, as I’d rather let the music do the talking.

      Anyway–please feel free to communicate, and I’m sorry that I missed your earlier question. I don’t intend to stop blogging–this is the first week in going on eight months that I’ve not posted anything, and it’s been a very hectic time in real life lately.

      So–I’m sorry that apparently I come across as a know-it-all. I don’t feel that way at all. Partly these blogs are about sharing favorites from over the years–but in large measure it’s all about sharing the excitement I have about constant discovery. Discovery is enjoyable enough “solo,” but I’m sure you share my feeling that it’s even more enjoyable when the joy is infectious, when one can share it freely. That’s the only reason I’d put so much time and nerdy effort into the mixes I make, or bother to write all these silly blurbs in the hopes someone will hear something new to them they’ll love.

      Thanks for listening, and please, speak up whenever you feel inspired to do so.

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