After the magnificent Siamese Dream made them superstars, the Smashing Pumpkins came back a mere two years later with this sprawling double album. Though decried by critics as being too “pretentious” and containing too much filler, I don’t find the band guilty on either count. First of all, the band simply sport grand ambitions and are one of the few bands around today that actually dares to be great; if that makes them pretentious then so be it. Secondly, I only see one weak song (“Tales Of A Scorched Earth”) among the 28 here (almost all of which were written by lead Pumpkin Billy Corgan), making this not only easily the best album of 1995 but a decade defining monument that’s one of my favorite albums of all-time.
Much more of a band effort than its infamously Corgan dominated predecessor, this is a rawer, more spontaneous effort that shows off all of the Pumpkins’ many sides, as they expand their sonic palette and rely less on the soft-to-loud dynamics that had previously been their trademark. Though the angsty (detractors would say “whiny”) lyrics are at times embarrassing, they’re also often memorable, and besides, it is the band’s spectacular sound that most matters, though Corgan’s unique voice, presented here in a less processed form, is still to many an acquired taste. Dreamy, angelic synth/piano pieces (“Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness,” “Cupid de Locke”) stand beside sparse pretties (“Take Me Down,” “Stumbleine,” “Farewell and Goodnight”) and soaring ballads with sweeping orchestrations (“Tonight Tonight,” “Galapogos”), while fabulous prog rock epics (“Porcelina Of The Vast Oceans,” “Thru The Eyes Of Ruby”) fit snugly alongside explosive/soaring hard rock (“Jellybelly,” “Here Is No Why,” “Love,” “Muzzle,” “Bodies”), raging heavy metal (“Zero,” “Bullet With Butterfly Wings,” “Ode To No One,” “X.Y.U.”), breezy pop perfection (“1979”), moody, emotional balladry (“Thirty-Three,” “In The Arms Of Sleep,” “By Starlight”), and lightly catchy sing alongs (“We Only Come Out At Night,” “Beautiful”).
The amazing end result encompasses everything that was great about alternative rock in the mid ’90s, as this well-balanced collection of songs can be both inconceivably beautiful and fragile, and deliberately ugly and abrasive, sometimes within the same song! Mellon Collie contains the bands prettiest ballads as well as their heaviest rockers (really, what more could a fan want?), with too many great moments to mention, and this smartly paced, all over the place masterpiece has been in heavy rotation on my stereo ever since its release. A Physical Graffiti for the ‘90s, this magical album was a brilliant band triumph that sold like hotcakes and briefly made the Smashing Pumpkins the biggest band in the world.