Maybe it's just that if you look like Uncle Fester long enough, your band is going to start reflecting some exceedingly dysfunctional Addams Family values.

Or maybe drowning in all the existential angst that fueled such hits as the "rat in a cage" song inevitably means that your life is going to start to looking as bleak as your art.


For the last few years, high drama has become synonymous with Billy Corgan--he of the pale bald pate--and the Smashing Pumpkins: Their record label sues them, accusing them of being unproductive. Their keyboardist dies of a heroin overdose. Their drummer gets drummed out for doing drugs. Their home town--the city of Chicago--turns down their offer to perform a free outdoor concert. They fire their management company. Their bassist--and Pumpkins founding member--D'Arcy decides that what she'd really rather do is . . . act.

The dawning of a new century hasn't made the picture any brighter for the Pumpkins, whose forlorn grunge-rock made them one of the most successful alternative rock bands of the '90s. Last week in Brussels, the Pumpkins bailed out on a show mid-concert because Corgan was sick. Apparently he wasn't the only one who was ill: Earlier this month their new manager, Sharon Osbourne (wife of Ozzy), quit in a huff. "I must resign for medical reasons," she said in a statement. "Billy Corgan was making me sick."

Now, a month before the release of their new album, "Machina/The Machines of God," a heavy metal venture into art-rock, rumors are heating up that Corgan is ready to pull the plug on his band. The rumor started during an Internet interview given by Filter band member Richard Patrick, who claimed that Corgan told him the Pumpkins were finished.

Virgin Records was forwarding all inquiries yesterday to the Pumpkins' publicists at Annie Ohayon Media Relations in New York.

"That's a rumor started by--what's that little band--Filter?" a Pumpkins publicist said. "Well, we've got no comment."

Still, despite the soap opera histrionics and Corgan's legendary temper tantrums, some industry insiders say it's not likely that the Pumpkins will be without management--or another hit--for long.

Says one observer: "There's managers lined up around the block to work with them. They're not just a rock machine. If you've got an artist who's a genius, you've got to treat him like one."

CAPTION: The Smashing Pumpkins in 1995, clockwise from top left: James Iha, Jimmy Chamberlin, former bassist D'Arcy and Billy Corgan.