Tag Archives: Smashing Pumpkins

Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness



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.


Siamese Dream


Gish got people buzzing about the band, and an excellent contribution to the essential Singles soundtrack (“Drown”) furthered an alleged connection to the grunge scene and bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam.

Next came a severe case of writer’s block for Billy Corgan before he penned the brilliantly uplifting anthem “Today,” a significant hit that put the Pumpkins on their way to stardom. The grungy power chords of “Cherub Rock” starts the album off with a classic rocker that’s an angry putdown of the indie community who had shunned them for not having “paid their dues.” Sorry, but greatness couldn’t wait, and with this big (in every way) second release the band blew away their competition (See ya, Pavement).

Layers upon layers of guitars seamlessly intermesh to form the backbone of louder tracks like the rumbling “Quiet” and brilliantly epic arena rockers such as “Hummer” and “Rocket.” The band also proves adept at switching gear, as their dreamy melodies often erupt into blasts of power chords and shards of feedback. The band’s reliance on these soft-to-loud dynamics (the changes in volume of which can be quite jarring) can seem inevitable at times, but the end result still thrills on songs such as “Today,” “Soma,” and “Mayonnaise” (my favorite song here which also has an absolutely gorgeous guitar intro going for it). Elsewhere, “Disarm” (a major hit), “Luna” (which ends the album on a beautifully optimistic “I’m in love with you” high), and “Spaceboy” (about Corgan’s disabled half brother Jesse) are all highly impressive, lushly orchestrated ballads.

If the album has a flaw it’s in a little too much doodling down time (after all, progressive rock is a primary influence), but though the willful experimentation on songs such as “Silverfuck” seemingly overstays its welcome, the band becomes well worth indulging when the screeching guitars search for transcendence. Apparently the album caused much friction among the band members, as it was later revealed that band leader Billy Corgan insisted on playing the majority of the guitar parts himself, untrusting that his cohorts could capture the many textured splendor of the sounds roaming inside his head.

So call Corgan an arrogant control freak if you must (he thankfully let Jimmy Chamberlin put in an incredible drumming performance, which has to be heard to be believed; check out the dynamic “Geek U.S.A” for starters), but don’t deny that with Siamese Dream he crafted a landmark early ‘90s masterpiece.


With screaming guitars cutting through the famously propulsive Pumpkins chug, “I am One” and “Siva” start the album off with the band at their most hard edged, “Gish” presented a readymade and highly original hard rock force.  However, “Rhinoceros” presents a softer side to the Pumpkins that is also apparent on most of the other songs here, most of which inevitably erupt as well.

As for the rest of the songs, “Bury Me” brings the rock big time, again with screaming guitars aplenty, the lush “Crush” is a beautifully low-key ballad, the trippily atmospheric, Eastern-tinged “Suffer” would later be brilliantly sampled by Tricky, the soaring “Snail” is the album’s most impressively epic arena rocker (along with “Rhinoceros”), “Tristessa” is stylistically similar to “Bury Me” but isn’t as good, “Window Paine” has its ups and downs but its ups are genuinely exciting, and the charming finale “Daydream” is a lightly dreamy change of pace sung girlishly by bassist D’Arcy in her only lead vocal with the band. In retrospect, Gish was the blueprint for even better things to come, but the album should still thrill the majority of the band’s legions of followers. Led by Billy Corgan, this was a band born for big things that knew exactly what they wanted right from the start (according to Corgan, he wanted to “combine the atmosphere of goth-rock with heavy metal”), aspiring towards everything that all of their indie “peers” despised by refusing to check either ego or ambition at the door.

Granted, Corgan’s geeky, grating vocal whine takes some getting used to, but producer Butch Vig manages to smooth over its rough edges just enough, and his voice certainly is uniquely his own. Though it pales in comparison to its subsequent big brothers, on which Corgan’s songwriting would grow by leaps and bounds, Gish was the necessary first step that made those brilliant albums possible, and it remains an exciting and estimable first effort in its own right.