- Daniel Woodward
The Smashing Pumpkins In Da Bauhaus, Y'all
If you're anything like me, maybe you've never heard of the term "Bauhaus" before. Up until the current Smashing Pumpkins European tour, I can't say I recall the term. Maybe I had heard it, but never knew what it meant.
Well, thank you, Smashing Pumpkins, for giving me the opportunity to educate myself. After a few searches, now I can say I know approximately...a smidgen!
And now I'm going to share my smidgen with you.
Check it out.
What do you see?
I see The Smashing Pumpkins rocking the stage with some pretty cool, albeit unusual stage props. My first thought was Russian matryoshka dolls. Then I thought puppets. Or idols. Apparently, they're inflatable. Good travel planning there.
Now check this out.
Do you see the resemblance? Not an accident.
What you are looking at is a Bauhaus costume party from the 1920's in Germany.
So what is "Bauhaus?"
I'll spare you the long history lesson, and besides, anyone can easily look on Wikipedia for a long historical explanation of the movement, but suffice it to say that it was an art movement in Germany that was largely active in the 1920's and early '30's which was influenced by modernism and the idea of the form expressing the function of the thing, if I understand correctly. This is very much in the spirit of modernism, as it sat at the opposite extreme of more classical art and architecture which was very flowery (so to speak) and ornamental.
Furthermore, it seems to have been influenced by the Soviet art that became so popular and widespread during the Communist Revolution in Russia at the time. Because of this, there seems to have been a thought that the art school was in support of communist ideals, though the leadership of the school denied this. Nevertheless, with the rise of Nazism in Germany, which was very opposed to the communist political power, the school closed under pressure in the '30's. But its influence lived on around the world.
So now you have a brief background, here comes the wild speculation about what it all means in the grander scheme of all things Smashing Pumpkins.
Anyone's guess is as good as mine, and I'm no outsider, but knowing what little I do about the movement, I would suggest that it seems to say something about the basics of function and form, which I would parallel with the state of the band itself right now. Here they are, fulfilling their function to rock, expressed through the form of their music with speed, beauty and grace. They are a tight unit. The majority of the original band is back, the importance of which we can all argue over, but can't help but be noticed, and as the mish-mashed incarnation they are at this time, consisting of the "old" and the "new," they are a force to be reckoned with. As one who saw them perform on their U.S. tour last summer, I can attest to this.
And then there was an interesting Instagram post that showed the inflatables on stage just as the tour was beginning, in which Billy Corgan said "The true Gods will roar. And the little gods will cower behind their manicured beards and plastic weapons of mass destruction." I couldn't help but be reminded of the much lauded (though somewhat down-played these days) lost Smashing Pumpkins song "As Rome Burns," with its revealing proclamation: "We are the new gods! Same as the old gods!"
Is this anywhere close to the right idea? Are we on the right path? Way off?
But as ever, the Smashing Pumpkins have not failed to astonish and delight this fan with their bold artistic moves, unafraid to be different and say something new, whether musically or visually. And for me, that's exactly what I love about them. As much as I love certain sounds or aesthetics from certain eras, what I truly love is the living, breathing creative force of the band that continually evolves and morphs into something exciting and new. It truly is a special thing, because it creates a moment in time that may not happen again - or if it does, it won't ever be in the same way. This is a band that embraces the present and the future. And perhaps it's a big part of why the band is always so ahead of its time. Because by embracing the new, they're already a few steps ahead of the general public, whose tendancy is to embrace a sound and then revel in it again, and again and again and again. This is a band that is always on the go, always tackling the next thing.
And so often, it just takes awhile for the rest of the world to catch up. But as for me, I'm grateful to be here, in the present, experiencing the Smashing Pumpkins of 2019. Because I know it won't ever be quite the same again.