Allow me to wax poetic for a quick minute in regards to The Smashing Pumpkins. Like many people, I’ve had my share of ups and downs with the band over the last couple of decades. More specifically, the issues are with Billy Corgan since he remains the sole original member of the band these days. For me, The Smashing Pumpkins truly ended on December 2, 2000, when they played their “final” show at the Metro in Chicago. Guitarist James Iha was gone, and Corgan would continue to work with drummer Jimmy Chamberlain on his next project Zwan. That went bust after three years, and following one solo record in 2005, Corgan chose to reclaim the Pumpkins name. Chamberlain stuck around for a couple of years, but eventually went his own way too, leaving what might as well be called Corgan and the Hired Hands. The two full lengths since then have largely been given a chilly reception, though you could say that 2012’s Oceania was one of the best things done under the Pumpkins name since pre-Machina. Now there’s a new record called Monuments to an Elegy that’s set for release next week. There’s also a new band backing up Corgan. While the new songs were recorded with guitarist Jeff Schroeder and former Motley Crue drummer Tommy Lee, the touring band assembled in support of this record includes Schroeder, bassist Mark Stoermer from The Killers and drummer Brad Wilk from Rage Against the Machine. The reason I bring all of this up is because at the start of my Thanksgiving weekend I had the opportunity to see the latest version of The Smashing Pumpkins perform live for the first time, and feel it represents a step in the right direction. See, in the handful of times I’ve been to a Pumpkins show, Corgan has remained stoic, deadly serious and steadfast in his own personal indulgences. There have been times when he’s played 90% new material or gone on long, psychedelic sojourns simply because he felt like it. Similarly, in recent years he’s occasionally lashed out at audiences, frustrated with them for one reason or another, though most often because they weren’t enthusiastic enough. The Corgan that showed up and performed at Thalia Hall in Chicago this past Wednesday kind of seemed like a changed man. He was smiling, he joked between songs, he played a good mixture of classic hits and new material, and just generally had a great time. So did the 850 or so people in attendance. While every Pumpkins show that I’ve seen has been impressive in its own way, this was the first time I was able to say it was a wholly positive and engaging experience. Not only did the band play a pretty wild cover of David Bowie’s “Fame” during the show, but they’ve also started selling merch that pokes fun at a feud between Corgan and CNN’s Anderson Cooper. Where has this Billy Corgan been hiding, and can he come out and play more often? Beyond the serious attitude adjustment, I’ll also say that the new songs sound pretty solid. Don’t expect classic era Pumpkins, but with any luck it might just wind up being the best thing released under that name in more than 15 years. There’s hope for this band yet, and I’m not one to say no to a good redemption story. Okay, now let’s get into this week-starting edition of Pick Your Poison. There’s some great tracks in this set from Blooms, Grand Vapids, Soft Lighting and Stuyvesant. In the Soundcloud section after the jump, stream songs from A$AP Ferg, Ice Choir, The Pop Group, Sunless 97 & Palmistry, Ultimate Painting and Wu-Tang Clan.

Alexis Davis – The Lift

Blooms – Guilty

Grand Vapids – Kiln

John Lennon – Imagine (An-Ten-Nae Remix)

Kanye West – Love Lockdown (Wize Remix)

La Roux – Uptight Downtown (Club Clique Remix)

Limited – Times Square Poet

Mecca:83 – Love Story

Milele – Traveler’s Hotel

Sango – Maluco (The Basement Tapes Remix)

Soft Lighting – Siamese Gemini

Stuyvesant – Oatmeal Song


A$AP Ferg – Talk It

Ice Choir – It’s Different Now

The Pop Group – Citizen Zombie

Sunless 97 & Palmistry – aia

Ultimate Painting – Ultimate Painting

Wu-Tang Clan – A Better Tomorrow