When Pavement penned a track to insult The Smashing Pumpkins

The 1990s produced some of alternative rock’s biggest and most influential names. Grunge acts such as Nirvana and Pearl Jam helped bring alternative rock into the mainstream, which gave rise to grunge-adjacent bands such as The Smashing Pumpkins. Fronted by Billy Corgan, the band broke through with their second album Siamese Dream, released in 1992, which was followed by their successful 1995 album Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. 

Meanwhile, Pavement were marking themselves out as the reigning champions of slacker rock, alongside the likes of Sebadoh, Beck, and Guided By Voices. The subgenre of alternative rock was characterised by a laid-back atmosphere, rough around the edges instrumentation, unpolished vocals and lo-fi production. The music that emerged from these artists possessed a distinctive charm, soon amassing a cult of underground followers. Although Pavement weren’t as successful as The Smashing Pumpkins, their recent string of sold-out reunion shows, which saw fans young and old flock to see the indie heroes perform their hits, proves their enduring popularity. 

In 1994, Pavement glimpsed chart success when their single ‘Cut Your Hair’ became an unexpected hit, frequently appearing on MTV and playing on alternative rock stations. The track came from their revered second album Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, which hit number 15 in the UK Album Charts. Alongside ‘Cut Your Hair’, the album contains some of the band’s other most prominent hits, including ‘Silence Kid’, ‘Gold Soundz’ and ‘Range Life’. The latter managed to stir up some controversy due to a few lines which targeted The Smashing Pumpkins. 

‘Range Life’, with its easy-going, nostalgic sound, sees Stephen Malkmus yearning for a more ordered life, marking a transition from adolescence to adulthood. In the second verse, the frontman sings, “Run from the pigs, the fuzz, the cops, the heat”, and “Out on my skateboard, the night is just humming,” painting the perfect image of a slacker-type teenager. Eventually, Malkmus must “settle down”, after all, “School’s out, what did you expect?” 

In the final verse, Malkmus refers to Corgan’s band, singing, “Out on tour with the Smashing Pumpkins/ Nature kids, I, they don’t have no function/ I don’t understand what they mean/ And I could really give a fuck.” Malkmus has finally reached a level of success, measured by namedropping a popular band, but it seems as though he is still dissatisfied. 

Apparently, when Corgan heard the song, he was so annoyed that he had Pavement dropped from Lollapalooza. “I think it’s rooted in jealousy,” he said. Corgan even boldly claimed, “People don’t fall in love to Pavement… they put on Smashing Pumpkins or Hole or Nirvana, because these bands actually mean something to them.” Despite Corgan’s rage, Malkmus remained unbothered. In 1999, he shared with NY Rock magazine, “A lot of people claim we dissed them. We never did. I only laughed about the band name, because it does sound kinda silly… Smashing Pumpkins.”

He continued, “And well, their status, that they were the indie darlings, the heroes of the indie scene. I never really dissed their music. I like their songs – well, most of their songs, anyway. Especially ‘1979’, that’s a cool song. As I said, I never dissed their music. I just dissed their status. I never really cared for the rock’n’roll lifestyle or being ‘indie.’” 

In 2010, Malkmus told GQ that he regretted the lyrics. He explained, “I played some Pavement songs when I was in Holland, and when I got to the part at the end of ‘Range Life’, I just didn’t feel like singing those words. It seems so dated now. At the time, it was an attempt to be topical, kind of like an ironic rap song and a way to make fun of the whole indie ‘We’re cool, you’re not cool’ thing. But I probably wouldn’t do that now.” 

That same year, Corgan demonstrated that he still felt acrimonious towards Pavement 14 years later. He tweeted, “Just found out SP is playing with Pavement in Brazil. It’s gonna be 1 of those New Orleans-type funerals.” He continued, “I say that because they represent the death of the alternative dream, and we follow with the affirmation of life part.” Corgan wasn’t done there; he also wrote, “Funny how those who pointed the big finger of ‘sell out’ are the biggest offenders now … Yawn” and “They have no love. By the way, we’ll be the band up there playing NEW songs because we have the love xx”

We’re guessing Corgan didn’t attend any of Pavement’s shows earlier this year. 

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