In the world of popular music today there is little room for the artist to be creative. That being said, the creative process itself is not always a smooth evolution and with change there is often a price to be paid. This sentiment might be the thesis of the new 2-disk documentary If All Goes Wrong by the Smashing Pumpkins. The film follows the band as they embark on musical residencies at the Orange Peel in Ashville, N.C. (8 nights) and the Fillmore in San Francisco, C.A. (11 nights) writing during the day and performing for sold out crowds at night. The package includes a 105-minute documentary along with a 115-minute concert film showing the highlights of the performances including seven new songs.
The documentary, directed by Jack Gulick and Daniel E. Catullo III, is an interesting look into the Pumpkinâ€™s creative songwriting process and gives the viewer insight into the world of Corgan & Co. The bandâ€™s decision to embark on the residency project so quickly after â€œreformingâ€ (2 original members- James Iha and Darcy Wretzky didnâ€™t participate) was a set-up for discord and rejection; fortunately these emotions seem to be a breeding ground for Billy Corganâ€™s best new material. Hearing the new songs in their infancy gives a bit of perspective into the Pumpkins musical canon and the stripped down acoustic versions carry a very different but powerful weight to them.
The documentary is an interesting look at the creative process of an artist taken out of context. The main tension in the film centers on Corganâ€™s lack of the big picture because of his deep self-involvement and his conflict with the immediate world around him. The rest of the bandâ€™s participation appears to be strictly musical and the three new musicians seem a bit stressed and detached from the process.
The concert film is a bit conventional, like a visit from the ghost of concert films past notably Woodstock with its split screens and The Song Remains the Same. In reality the concert is a bonus to the documentary more than a piece by itself. One interesting point is â€œGossamer,â€ a goliath 37-minute composition which is musically virtuous but essentially melodious masturbation borrowing notes from every decade of rock music.
The real highlight of the film is really in observing the process of the musicians and showcasing their new songs. The musicianship, even early on in the process, is top notch and songs like â€œPeace + Loveâ€ and â€œ99 Floorsâ€ are terrific even in their infant stage. After witnessing the songs development in the documentary the audience has a greater appreciation for them in concert. Overall, the package is a very personal look at the band, for better and worse, and is absolutely worth checking out.