Dedicated to those songs that I can't stop playing, humming, or thinking about; the 4+ minutes you fall head-over-heels in love with. Past instances have included Beck's "Timebomb," New Order's "Age of Consent," and Black Sabbath's "N.I.B."
Impossibly stupid song titles are nothing new, especially to pop music. For all the trails it may have blazed, "Tutti Frutti" set rock music back years in its quest (however misguided) toward legitimacy. The 70s filled the airspace with important sounding rock bands with important sounding and effectively confusing song titles. Maybe Led Zeppelin didn't do it as well as some others, but I think they took the title of Best Achieved Frustration by releasing a song called "Houses of the Holy" after they had released an album a year before with that title. Active Confusion seems to be an easy way to give yourself importance ("You don't get me 'cause you're just not smart enough"), and this art form seemed to reach perfection with the bands of the early 90s. Giving a weird, disconnected title to a song with a singable chorus was a way for bands like S.T.P. to announce their dedication to nothing. However, the Smashing Pumpkins grabbed the gauntlet of self importance where Jim Morrison puked on it and announced, "Have we got some stupid titles for you!"
"The Beginning Is The End Is The Beginning" is such an vigorously stupid title, I'm embarrassed to write it and I didn't even come up with it. I'm not 100% positive who did come up with it, but since we're dealing with the Pumpkins, I will sarcastically bet it might have come from Billy Corgan. In his time, Corgan was an Ambitious Artist with capital "A's." To prove it, he sang whiney, wore weird sweaters during interviews, played piano, and had lots of strange lyrics for his rock songs.
This song marks one of the few high points from the Pumpkins' lowest period: the strange electronica era. With roots in "1979" and full culmination with the album Adore, nobody knew what to do with these Pumpkins. Adore became the CD I listened to the least by a band I claimed to love. They had kicked out their drummer, then hired him back, then they lost their woman bass player and snagged the woman bass player from Hole (a girl bass player seemed to be very important to the Pumpkins sound). But worst of all -- a band capable of rocking as hard as any on Earth had decided it didn't want to rock that hard any more. They tried a rock-styled comeback with another stupidly double-titled album Machina - The Machines of God (seriously, pick just one stupid title and go with it). Despite this valiant effort, I -- along with many others -- stopped paying attention. I remember a feeling of excitement around post Mellon Collie Pumpkins releases, but I can't say I was legitimately excited. I was behaving the way I wanted to be feeling, but they weren't fitting my current mood.
So it's easy to imagine how "The Beginning..." fell through the cracks. Originally released on the Batman & Robin soundtrack, it wasn't even the featured Pumpkins song of the list (that spotlight was focused on the slightly-more-rocking,-though-still-no-"Cherub-Rock" tune, "The End Is The Beginning Is The End"). In hindsight, attaching themselves in any way to an entertainment black-hole like Batman & Robin may further explain the disappearance of the song and the Pumpkins themselves. Everyone wanted to get as far away from that movie as possible, and if you were the featured band on the soundtrack, then sorry. Oddly enough the reason I'm currently hooked on the song is the only reason anyone has been hooked: it's the score for the trailer to Watchmen, a superhero movie no doubt designed as the very antithesis to Batman & Robin. The song has earned a rebirth. It is now the sixth best selling Pumpkins track on iTunes, allowing the tune to join George Clooney as the sole survivors from that horrible cinematic disaster.
One could assume the makers of Watchmen -- or at least the makers of the trailer -- are foolish for inviting any comparisons between their upcoming superhero movie with one of the genre's lowest points, but upon my repeated listens, the choice makes total sense. Actually, a better question would be, "Why was this song ever included for Batman & Robin?" It doesn't fit that film's mood in the slightest. By all accounts, that soundtrack should have been exclusively filled with B-52 songs. With orchestration, tension and mood to spare, where did this some come from? Did Corgan simply set out to write a song to fit the moody Batman he independently imagined, or did he misread the script, or was he prophetically underscoring the feelings of the audience? With lyrics like "The world is lost and blown," "We can watch the world devoured in its pain" and "Now the kingdom comes crashing down undone," I'm assuming the latter.
There remains debate in my home as to how we ever came to possess this soundtrack. I've always been a Batman fan, but have I always been that much of a Batman fan? I swore my wife got it used because of the R.E.M. song, but vehemently she denies this accusation. One thing I am sure of, however, is that Corgan could not have consciously written a song more suited for what fans perceive Watchmen's feel should and could be. The song's atmospheric tone and symphonic leanings somehow didn't find a home in its original late-90's context, but given the gift of anonymity with the Watchmen trailer, the song's moody cinema has soared. After hearing the song during my millions of viewing sessions with the trailer, I was even more surprised to find that the actual non-trailer accompanying song has all those the dramatic pauses in it already; they weren't added by the creator of the trailer. They're all in the song! That pause when you hear the Comedian say "God help us all" just before the shot of Dr. Manhattan's resurrection... it's in the song.
Somehow, self importance in music created for a shamelessly commercial film has found its way to a shamelessly commercial version of one of the most self important comic books of our time, and suddenly the loopy circular nature of the song's dumb-ass title reveals its true power. I am both smarter and stupider for knowing this to be true.
Written By Phillip Mottaz