Pros: Lots of diverse, aurally intense, and overall very interesting tracks.
Cons: A few very long tracks, sometimes pretentious
Billy Corgan was always a bit pretentious. Despite appearing as just part of Smashing Pumpkins, he was actually the driving force behind the great majority of their music especially on the bands highly successful sophomore album Siamese Dream.
Smashing Pumpkins was formed in Chicago in 1988 when Corgan recruited James Iha (guitar) and DArcy Wretzky (bass) to be part of the band. Jimmy Chamberlain soon joined with them on drums to round out the bands lineup. The foursome toured and eventually released their debut single, I Am One, in 1990. The debut album, Gish, followed in 1991 and became a huge hit among college rock and alternative fans.
The combination of progressive rock, heavy metal, and occasional electronica made Smashing Pumpkins an easy sell to many music fans. Although, it took until the bands follow up album Siamese Dream before they became household names. During the time that the 1993 album was recorded, each of the four bandmates were experiencing great inner turmoil. Corgan took it upon himself to write, sing, and play guitar and bass on the vast majority of the tracks as a catharsis for his own depression. Siamese Dream became a massive hit as a result of singles like Disarm and Today.
1994 marked the release of a decent rarities album entitled Pisces Iscariot. But, it wasnt until Mellon Collie and The Infinite Sadness, a double CD set, was released in 1995 that the band once again found their groove. The album shattered many notions of what Smashing Pumpkins and rock music were supposed to be. It contained an amazingly eclectic 28 tracks that ranged in genre from folk, rock, and pop to classical and electronica. And, despite the length of the album it debuted in the top position and eventually sold four million copies stateside.
Mellon Collie and The Infinite Sadness was indulgent and majestic and one of the most motivated albums in rock history and certainly of the bands career. Although, at times the albums grandeur seems overwrought and exaggerated, thus weighing down the intended message. But, it does have some very high points. With tracks like Tonight, Tonight, Zero, Bullet with Butterfly Wings, and Thirty-Three its apparent that Smashing Pumpkins has never sounded better. These tracks were all, on some level, hit singles.
In addition to those relatively popular songs (and typical choices), there are plenty of other notable tracks ranging from Jellybelly to Lily. Overall, Mellon Collie and The Infinite Sadness is a sprawling album that Corgan and his mates should be proud of. Corgan, in fact, wrote 26 of the tracks by himself and even co-produced the album with famed producer Flood. The fortunate thing for Iha, Wretzky, and Chamberlain is that they seem to have a bit more of a hand in the album than the previous Siamese Dream.
Back to the songs. My favorite tracks are undoubtedly the ones that combine loud, heavy rock with electronica (a Pumpkins signature sound). Both the aforementioned Zero and Bullet With Butterfly Wings fit neatly into this musical category. Zero has obnoxious, grinding guitars with a great melody. To make the song even better, Corgans lyrics are almost profound. I love the line
Emptiness is loneliness, and loneliness is cleanliness
And cleanliness is godliness, and god is empty just like me
Bullet With Butterfly Wings is just a great alterna-rock track in general. Its not as loud as Zero, but the bass guitar and drums make up for the modulated guitars. Its easy to see why the track ended up a hit single. The title really has little to do with the lyrics. In fact, casual listeners will likely remember it best as the rat song. You know the line despite all my rage, I am still just a rat in a cage.
I prefer the first disk to the second. It seems more upbeat and more intense than the second. Both are equally valid musically, but my heart connects more with Dawn to Dusk. I even enjoy the title track with its light instrumentals and piano melody.
Anyway, Ill save you the trouble of reading a snippet of a review about each of the 28 tracks. That would certainly get unwieldy and would become completely impossible (and boring) for readers. What I will say is that Smashing Pumpkins created a lovely vision with Mellon Collie and The Infinite Sadness. I believe that the album may surpass Siamese Dream, but because some of the tracks are much too long (like Porcelina of the Vast Oceans and Thru The Eyes of Ruby) its not quite as universally entertaining.
I do recommend the album to all fans of Smashing Pumpkins. To other listeners, Id recommend you check out Siamese Dream before this. If you like that, get Mellon Collie and The Infinite Sadness. And if you like this album, check out Gish. All the latter attempts arent as interesting. And, for the record the band broke up in 2000. Dont expect anything new from them any time soon.
Dawn to Dusk
1. Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness
2. Tonight Tonight
5. Here is No Why
6. Bullet with Butterfly Wings
7. To Forgive
8. F*ck You (An Ode to No one)
10. Cupid de Locke
13. Porcelina of the Vast Oceans
14. Take Me Down
Twilight to Starlight
1. Where Boys Fear to Tread
4. In the Arms of Sleep
6. Tales of a Scorched Earth
7. Thru the Eyes of Ruby
10. We Only Come Out at Night
12. Lily (My One and Only)
13. By Starlight
14. Farewell and Goodnight