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Wednesday, 5 June 2013

A final post.

I've been busy for a while, training to be a journalist. It looks like Keep or Cull has come to an end as a project.

I just want to thank everyone who enjoyed my writing. I'm still very active, writing about art and music, interview lots of interesting people, and getting my work out there in some real publications.

I've been doing a lot of cultural journalism with the Yorkshire Post and will be doing work for the Guardian in the next few weeks.

Please check out what I've been up to at www.joncronshaw.co.uk and say hi on Twitter @Jon_Cronshaw.

Keep or Cull will always be a special thing for me, and will remind me of the time I was unemployed before my son was born and needed something to write about.

I had a read through the Kindle book of Keep or Cull the other day, and it made me realise how much fun I had doing writing about music and memory. The project made me fall in love with music again, and hopefully it inspired a few others to take a look at their CD racks and decide whether the album is one to keep, or one for the charity shop.

- Jon.

You can follow me on Twitter @Jon_Cronshaw. You can also support the site by purchasing the Keep or Cull ebook for Amazon Kindle. Thank you.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Happy Mondays - Pills 'n' Thrills and Bellyaches (1990)

I've decided to try something new. So, here is the first keep or cull podcast. Please feel free to comment and share, and if you're on audioboo, my profile is Jon_Cronshaw. It's a bit of an experiment, so hopefully it will be a good one.

You can follow me on Twitter @Jon_Cronshaw. You can also support the site by purchasing the Keep or Cull ebook for Amazon Kindle. Thank you.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Smashing Pumpkins – Siamese Dream (1993)

In November 2000, Smashing Pumpkins came to the UK on their farewell tour. It was set to be one of their last dates ever in the UK, and even though the gig was at the NEC in Birmingham, I knew that I had to go.

I’d been going out with a girl for almost a year, it was an intense relationship, and to say that the girl I was seeing was a bit of a possessive fruit-loop is something of an understatement. We’d separated shortly after I went to university in the September, and I thought that we were on good terms with each other – I was wrong.

I went back to Wolverhampton on the night of the show and was given a lift to Birmingham by the girl’s mother. We’d had an argument before the car ride, and the atmosphere was in that sweet spot between tense and awkward. I can’t remember what the argument was about, but I can recall there being quite a few jealous rants that paid no heed to logic or rational thinking, and ultimatums were made. I don’t respond well to ultimatums – I never have. I’ve always seen them as the last refuge of a control freak.

The show at the NEC was incredibly disappointing: the sound was quiet and sparse, the crowd seemed detached and bored, and the evening was spent in the icy company of my ex who spent most of the show in tears. I’d been to quite a few gigs with her, and each time there would be some kind of drama or upset.

On the way back from the gig, I stared in silence out of the window of my ex’s mother’s car and could not wait to get back to Keele and be rid of her.

The next day she phoned me up, begging for us to remain friends. I agreed, not wanting to cause further upset, but when she found out during the conversation that I had started seeing someone else, her reaction was really quite frightening as she began screaming hysterically down the phone.

When I returned back to Wolverhampton for the Christmas break, I heard a lot of rumours that had been spread around Wolverhampton about me, most of them petty. The one rumour that bothered me the most was the fact that she told anyone who’d listen that I once forced her to get an abortion – this wasn’t true in the slightest. When I heard that, I decided it was time draw a line and never have anything to do with her again.

The next time I went out in Wolverhampton to a club night called Blast Off!, a sweaty indie night that took over the Civic Hall every Saturday and featured the same playlist of Madchester and Britpop anthems week-on-week, I was charged upon by my ex. She jumped at me and tried to burn my eye out with a cigarette (I still have a tiny scar on my eyelid from it), I pushed her away and made my way to a disabled toilet, locked the door and bathed my burnt eyelid.

A half hour or so later, I was back with my friends on the dance-floor when I was unceremoniously seized by two bouncers who dragged me to the entrance foyer. My ex had accused me of some kind of sexual assault, and the bouncers looked like they were ready to take me around a back alley and kick the living shit out of me. My ex was there, in tears, pointing and shouting “that’s him, that’s him!” I tried to explain who she was and pleaded my innocence, but she gave a fake name and denied knowing me. Just at that moment, one of her friends shouted over to her to leave it, and used her real name. The penny dropped with the bouncers, and I avoided God knows what.

So, I blame her in some way for spoiling the Smashing Pumpkins’ final show for me. They’ve reformed since, but the memories of that gig and what transpired afterwards are pretty messed up. Luckily for me, they never hindered my enjoyment of Siamese Dream.

Siamese Dream opens with the layered intensity of ‘Cherub Rock’, a song that builds in urgency during its intro until hitting you hard with with the main riff. It’s simple, yet stunning. The guitar solo dips and twists around from deep dive-bombi ng whammy bar bends to dizzying wails. Billy Corgan’s vocals do what they do best: swing from the soft subtlety of the verse, to the spits and growls during his screams of “let me out”.

‘Quiet’ is a song that doesn’t quite fit its title, with its chugging guitar progression during the verse, and an insane guitar solo that would make leave many rock traditionalists baffled. It’s an excellent piece of music that showcases what an important part of the Smashing Pumpkins’ sound Jimmy Chamberlain’s drumming was. ‘Today’ is an incredibly cute pop-rock song built around a music-box sounding lullaby guitar riff. The video for this one is excellent, as it sees the band covering an ice cream van in paint.

‘Hummer’ is truly astonishing. The guitar work is subtle and beautiful, and the harmonic guitar and whispered vocals of the verse create an incredible sonic effect that has to be heard in a quiet room with headphones on to truly appreciate. The subtlety of the verse is contrasted with the fuzz-soaked guitar of the chorus, but it’s a contrast that never sounds out of place. If you’re not convinced by the sheer genius of Corgan’s song-writing abilities, just listen to the gentle, echoic guitar work of the bridge – it’s mind-blowing. This is the sound that made me fall in love the Smashing Pumpkins: subtle, atmospheric and dreamy elements clashing with all out noise rock. Amazing.

‘Rocket’ is another excellent track. Again, we see layered guitars and dreamlike vocals ringing over an awesome melody. The guitar solo is something to behold as it takes the almost My Bloody Valentine levels of layered fuzz into a surprising direction. There are few bands that could get away with the level of unabashedly flamboyant guitar wankery without it sounding self-indulgent. Perhaps it’s because the guitar solos always seem so necessary and surprising, that it doesn’t detract from the integrity of the rest of the music.

‘Disarm’ is another stunning piece of music that is hinged around acoustic guitars, hand-bells and a string section. The song is heartfelt and powerful, and always sends a bit of shiver down my spine. ‘Soma’ continues the spine-tingling sensation: it’s melodic and dreamy, and has an incredible chord progression. Corgan’s vocal performance in this one is exceptional. ‘Geek USA’ is a bit like ‘Cherub Rock’ on speed, and lacks a lot of the sonic elements that make the rest of this album so engaging.

‘Mayonaise’ opens with a gorgeous melodic intro, before being drowned by layers of warm fuzz. It’s the perfect balance of loud distortion and quiet delivery that make this song so special. Even though the guitars are loud and layered, they never sound noisy or aggressive. It’s a sound that bands like Weezer and Dinosaur Jr. do so well, but that Corgan perfected.

‘Spaceboy’ points to Smashing Pumpkins’ future trajectory more than any other track on the album. With its pained vocals and gentle acoustic guitar playing being held together by melancholic synths. In contrast to this is ‘Silverfuck’, with its swirling riffs and a barrage of drums. ‘Sweet Sweet’ is quiet and gentle, and is one of the shortest songs on the album.

Album-closer ‘Luna’ treads similar conceptual lines as tracks like ‘Hummer’ and ‘Soma’, and is tinged with the sense of romance and yearning that made Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness such an interesting album.

Siamese Dream is an album that rewards the careful listener. It’s an album that ranks as one of my favourites, and it is one that I don’t think I’ll be getting rid of any time soon.

You can follow me on Twitter @Jon_Cronshaw. You can also support the site by purchasing the Keep or Cull ebook for Amazon Kindle. Thank you.

Visit www.smashingpumpkins.com/