Platinum Pumpkins

Virgin Records reports that the Smashing Pumpkins have shipped a million copies of their second album, Siamese Dream, qualifying it for platinum status. (SoundScan, which monitors the number of records actually sold, has the Pumpkins down at 640,000.) Official platinum certification comes from the Record Industry Association of America after a waiting period for returned albums; that should come after the first of the year, says Pumpkins manager Andy Gershon. Sales were definitely given a boost after the band’s impressive October 30 appearance on Saturday Night Live, Gershon says; immediate MTV Buzz Bin status for the second video, the plangent “Today,” didn’t hurt either. The third video will be for “Disarm,” the album track of which is already in heavy rotation on some radio stations. (You can’t really call the songs “singles,” because the band’s not releasing singles in the U.S.) The Pumpkins’ current stateside tour ends December 10 in Chicago. Tix went on sale Saturday and were gone in five minutes. “That’s 300 seconds,” says Jam’s Andy Cirzan. “That’s got to be a record for the Aragon.” There’s no word yet on a second show.

Urge’s Video Subtext

Urge Overkill’s second video from Saturation stars the fabulous National Kato in a white jumpsuit, pounding away at a guitar in matching dinner gloves as he sings “Positive Bleeding,” the band’s acid deconstruction of classic-rock loner posturing set to old Boston and Grand Funk riffs. An opening bit of text captures the band’s smirky politesse perfectly: “May We Rock You?” But while on one level the clip is just another entertaining, image-making melange–of the band posing for 60s-style magazine layouts, holding a press conference, and so forth–a close reading reveals a more serious subtext. Flashing images of a pair of male and female dolls facing each other but separated by a metal ring around the female’s waist, what are apparently various bodily fluids being poured into martini glasses, and a recurring plus sign conjure up a darker dichotomy: 60s sunniness versus modern-day sobriety, sexual and otherwise. Being “positive,” after all, means something different in the 90s. Saturation, meanwhile, just dropped off the nether reaches of the Billboard 200 album chart; SoundScan says the band has sold just under 100,000 units. Urge is back on the road this week, opening for Pearl Jam.

Phair’s Coup

Spin will name Exile in Guyville album of the year in the January issue, editors there say. (The Pumpkins are in the top ten, too.) Liz Phair’s also named one of four runner-up artists of the year. Neil Young takes the top spot, though he didn’t do anything to speak of this year; the other runners-up are Dr. Dre, Soul Asylum, and the Pumpkins. SoundScan says Exile in Guyville’s sold 24,000 copies; after Pavement’s Slanted and Enchanted, it’s Matador Records’ second-highest-selling album, the label says. Phair’s filming a video for the song “Stratford-on-Guy” this week, and will perform at a benefit for the Midwest AIDS Foundation tonight at the Park West. Hitsville thinks Phair’s hotly debated September show at Metro (she played for 45 minutes and didn’t do an encore) was widely misinterpreted. For its third concert ever, it was plain that the band was choosing its battles: rather than filling out a set with covers or unprepared songs, it concentrated on delivering on the few songs it did play–notably “Stratford” and the carefully feedbacked “Explain It to Me.” Other highlights were drummer Brad Wood cheerfully chiming in on the “I want a boyfriend” chorus of “Fuck and Run” and guitarist Casey Rice matter-of-factly tuning Phair’s guitar as she chatted with the crowd. Also interesting: the extremely high percentage of women at the show. The big problem was that the sound, while adequate, wasn’t perfect, which is what it needed to be to convey the intimacy Phair and the group were working toward. Tonight’s show–now that the band has a big dozen concerts under its belt–is highly recommended. A $50 dinner and fashion show starts at 7, but you can go late and just see Phair for $8. She plays at 10.

Memories of the Bar R-R

Bub City is hosting a tribute to the Sundowners December 1. The venerable country trio, whose Bar R-R nightclub (known as the “double-R ranch”) in the Loop was razed four years ago, has since been in residence at its own Sundowners Ranch in Franklin Park. But last August a stroke laid low lead guitarist Don Walls, leading to the demise of both the group and the new bar. The tribute show tonight will feature the Mekons, the Texas Rubies, and Sundowners pal John Rice and friends. It’s all free. Organizer Leigh Jones says that Nashville’s Hatch Show Print Shop is creating commemorative posters for the event, using its antique woodcut printing method, so they’ll look old-fashioned. Incidentally, nothing was ever built on the site of the old R-R. Hitsville thinks that people who evict businesses from their homes and then leave the bulldozed remains vacant should be put in jail.