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The Smashing Pumpkins: Mellon collie and the infinite sadness

24/08/12  ||  BamaHammer

Introduction

It’s easy for me to get really fucken emotional when talking about this album. In my teenage years, I’d be hard pressed to come up with an album that spun more than this one. Well, other than “Ride the lightning” or “Fear of the dark”. It is/was that good.

Songwriting

9. This record is actually so good and so chock-full of songwriting ideas that it wouldn’t even fit on one disc. It’s not very often that a multi-disc rock album is truly deserving of such treatment by the label. In some cases, non-live double-albums can be loaded with unlistenable fat that should probably be trimmed before release, and they fail to live up to the expectations and bury you as the listener in suffocating pretentiousness (Derek and the Dominoes and RHCP. Fuck you.). In other cases, the double-album format allows for truly extensive musical experiences that you couldn’t get any other way (Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Led Zep, etc.).

On “Mellon Collie” the Pumpkins lay out an unbelievable spread from this veritable cornucopia of musical tastes. They offer the alternative rock/metal that made them famous with tracks like “Bullet with butterfly wings”. They give you radio smash hits deluxe with tracks like “1979”. Do you want an epic orchestral rock opera? Good, because you’ve got “Tonight, tonight”. Hell, are you into doom? “Where boys fear to tread” has got you covered. Want a random blastbeat? Try the intro of “Jellybelly”. “Stumbleine” even gives you a break from the fuzz with a dose of acoustic folk. The sheer extent of styles the bands dabbles into on this album is impressive, but the quality of how they handle all of those styles is simply stunning. The two discs are also broken into two themes (the first disc is titled “Dawn to dusk” and the other is “Twilight to starlight”) that surprisingly works very effectively.

Production

8. This is one of the aspects of this album which actually vexes me. It’s such a mixed bag of sounds from track to track, but yet somehow they all sound just similar enough to make you believe they were all written and recorded at roughly the same time. The trademark Pumpkins guitar tone is here, alive and well, with all the fuzz-driven buzz-saw Marshall madness the band had let you come to expect. The whole package could best be described as just very thick. Every instrument and voice is clear as a bell, but there’s definitely a lot of sound here.

Guitars

8. James Iha sucks. I’m not going to try to defend that elephant in the room here at all. Minus one point there. However, Billy Corgan’s guitar playing has always received as much intense scrutiny as it has received superfluous praise. And it always seems to be with good reason in both instances. Personally, I think he was absolutely brilliant in his prime simply because of the way he combined technical skill that could be described as anywhere from mediocre to average with a staggering level of unbridled emotion. The broad spectrum of styles that began on “Siamese dream” two years earlier with tracks ranging from the heavy, driving riffs of “Geek U.S.A.” to the soft, heartfelt acoustic moments on “Disarm” are only echoed on “Mellon Collie” to an even greater effect. There are the simple yet majestic chords on a track like “Tonight, tonight” and the quiet, crystal-clear intricacies of “Galapagos” interspersed between real burners like “Porcelina”, “Tales of a scorched earth”, and the classic “Bullet with butterfly wings”. As for the solos, a few are typical noisy ’90s alternative garbage, but there are also many that really shine in their simple effectiveness like “Zero”, “Through the eyes of ruby”, and “Muzzle”. All in all, color me pleased.

Vocals

7. Again, Corgan splits the world in to the “love it or hate it” realm of taste. He’s got a good range of volumes, but in the end it’s still very nasal and still very Billy Corgan. When he screams, he definitely sounds convincingly angry. I have no idea why anyone could be that mad in 1995, but he pulls it off. In the softer moments like “Stumbleine” or “Galapagos”, he also cranks out loads of emotion, only this time going the heartfelt, lovey-dovey route. Whatever. He gets a polarizing 7.

Bass

3,5. It’s definitely there sometimes, but she wasn’t doing anything special. At all. Ever.

Drums

9,5. Jimmy Chamberlain is good. Really good. He did all the jazzy-fill-Brann-Dailor shit before Mastodon made it cool in metal. A jazz drummer by trade, Chamberlain did nothing but enhance every song with his lightning-fast hands and nearly over-utilization of snare fills. While Dailor’s over-abundant fill techniques often annoy me, Chamberlain’s chops still remain tasty mainly because of the vast difference in musical styles. Either way, Jimmy Chamberlain was, in my opinion, the best alternative rock drummer of the ’90s without a doubt.

Lyrics

10. These lyrics were really cool when I was teenager, but as I’ve grown older, I can begin to see that the lyrics are legitimately profound. As a kid, songs like “Muzzle” and “1979” were just fun to listen to while you had a sing-along session in your car. As an adult, I realize that Corgan is actually singing about the inescapable and depressing truth that we all have to grow up. No matter how hard we try to recapture those nostalgic feelings of our childhood, those times are never coming back again. However, that doesn’t mean that we can’t still look back with a smile on our face and a fond feeling in our hearts and reflect on how great life was then.

Cover art

6,5. Somewhere out in space far beyond the realms of pointless Gamma Ray references and between a lot of planets which are dangerously close to one another for reasons of physics, a star is floating. This is no ordinary star. It’s plastic. It’s also an inter-dimensional door to a plane where every living being is actually a painting. Alas, one has broken through, but it appears as though she either has tetanus or is dangerously drunk on mouthwash.

Logo

6. It says “The Smashing Pumpkins” in some wispy yet cool font that fits the band pretty well somehow. Still boring though.

Booklet

8. You don’t just get one booklet. You get two. One is full of only the lyrics and printed on some sore of cool, rough papyrus or something. The other is more of a standard booklet with color photos of the band and credits. Pretty cool.

Overall and ending rant

There you have it. Thanks for reading the rundown on one my favorite albums of the ’90s. It’s as close to perfect as any alternative rock album from that period can possibly get, and I think it’s actually gotten better with age. It’s a masterpiece. If you’ve never heard this one all the way through for some reason, you need to find it. You owe it to yourself to enjoy this album.

9,5

  • Information
  • Released: 1995
  • Label: Virgin
  • Website: www.smashingpumpkins.com
  • Band
  • Billy Corgan: vocals, guitars
  • James Iha: guitars
  • D’Arcy Wretzky: bass
  • Jimmy Chamberlain: drums
  • Tracklist
  • Disc one
  • 01. Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness
  • 02. Tonight, Tonight
  • 03. Jellybelly
  • 04. Zero
  • 05. Here Is No Why
  • 06. Bullet with Butterfly Wings
  • 07. To Forgive
  • 08. Fuck You (An Ode to No One)
  • 09. Love
  • 10. Cupid de Locke
  • 11. Galapogos
  • 12. Muzzle
  • 13. Porcelina of the Vast Oceans
  • 14. Take Me Down
  • Disc two
  • 01. Where Boys Fear to Tread
  • 02. Bodies
  • 03. Thirty-Three
  • 04. In the Arms of Sleep
  • 05. 1979
  • 06. Tales of a Scorched Earth
  • 07. Thru the Eyes of Ruby
  • 08. Stumbleine
  • 09. X.Y.U.
  • 10. We Only Come Out at Night
  • 11. Beautiful
  • 12. Lily (My One and Only)
  • 13. By Starlight
  • 14. Farewell and Goodnight