The Smashing Pumpkins: Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness
Format: CD (originally purchased on cassette)
Purchased: Sam the Record Man
Key Tracks: Tonight, Tonight, Jellybelly, Porcelina of the Vast Oceans, Tales of A Scorched Earth, By Starlight, Farewell and Goodnight…and so many more
Billy and the Amazing Technicolor Screamcoat. There is something to be said about outsized ambitions that are actually realized and then some. The Smashing Pumpkins’ 1995 release, “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness” propelled these navel gazing nerdbot zeroes into the mainstream, where they existed for the next two years before flaming out of sight and seemingly out of mind.
To have been listening to radio or watching music video channels circa 1995 was to be inundated into Billy Corgan-land. This album provided a plethora of musical moments as well as visual ones (who can possibly forget that incredible video for “Tonight Tonight” or that eternally young after school party that was “1979” ?).
Who sounds like the Smashing Pumpkins?
Who do the Smashing Pumpkins sound like?
No one has quite dared to emulate the massive scope and vision Billy Corgan and company blasted into the world…The incredibly grating yet ingratiating vocal stylings that went from whine to sigh; scream to shout, sometimes in the matter of one coupling seems to have left a pair of shoes no one dares quite try on. The enormity of the music contained in this album (layered guitars, synths, orchestras, ebows, keys acoustics, throbbing bass and drums that exist somewhere just outside of rhythmic comprehension) is, I guess, just “too much” for anyone to bother mining. Maybe the Arcade Fire…maybe.
Corgan’s influences are not quite obvious (the music he writes is too unique to be pegged as being directly influenced by anyone else) but they can be discerned…Flashes of ELO, Queen and My Bloody Valentine skitter out of the woodwork here and there, but this music is wholly of its own universe…Pumpkinland indeed.
The band magically capture every styling they attempt, from folky songs of yearning (Stumbliene) to grand statements of majestic hope (Tonight Tonight), to full on psycho-raving and drooling (Tales of A Scorched Earth) to grand wizard melodic guitar freakouts (Thru the Eyes of Ruby), to gentle lulling lullabies (Farewell and Goodnight). A standout track for this egghead is “By Starlight”, which hums and thrums gently into the ears on a moonlit breeze. Call it campfire music for geekazoids.
It is unfortunate that this band kinda flamed out shortly after their next couple albums, never to truly catch a spark again, despite some pretty magical moments. Magic, however, is how you can describe a 36 track double album where no two songs sound quite alike and every experiment seems defy logic and actually work on some level or another. It doesn’t just stand as testament to Billy Corgan’s vision or staggering ability to just piss out good songs. It also screams out that the unique chemistry in this band of losers was one for the ages. The smallest musical moments are somehow laced in enormity and the heaviest screeching tire fires somehow make room for some sort of melody. This is a truly outstanding work that, at least to me, defines the possibility to be found in excess.