Category: The Smashing Pumpkins

Smashing Pumpkins – Mellon Collie & the Infinite Sadness

ARTIST: Smashing Pumpkins

TITLE: Mellon Collie & the Infinite Sadness 

YEAR RELEASED: 1995

CHART ACTION:  US #1, UK #4

SINGLES: Bullet with Butterfly Wings (#22 US, #2 Alternative, #4 Mainstream, #20 UK), 1979 (#12 US, #1 Alternative, #1 Mainstream, #16 UK), Zero (#49 Airplay, #9 Alternative, #15 Mainstream), Tonight Tonight (#36 US, #5 Alternative, #4 Mainstream, #7 UK), Thirty-Three (#39 US, #2 Alternative, #18 Mainstream, #21 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: X.Y.U., Muzzle

LINEUP: Billy Corgan, D’Arcy Wretzsky, James Iha, Jimmy Chamberlain. Greg Leisz played pedal steel.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: A L-O-N-G record with some masterful songs, and some songs that needed pruning.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: You talk about bloat? You thought the Smashing Pumpkins last album was too long and hard to get through at once? Well, you ain’t heard nothing yet.

This double CD (28 tracks, originally thought of 32 early on out of 56 they considered after recording about 70 or so, and 30 on the original vinyl version) has a wide array of tracks in both length and motif.

This is where Billy Corgan and his mates break out of their alt-rock motif and dabble in chamber pop, acoustic folky songs, prog rock epics, and guitar freakouts. Many of the songs are classics – touchstones of the mid-90’s. The deep cuts were interesting and revelatory. They were all over radio and MTV.

Yet, for all the accolades and sales, this record could use a good whacking at times. A lot of the songs go about a minute too long, sometimes two minutes. The quieter tracks aren’t sequenced in a way where they would be most effective – they get lost in the noise. I don’t know if I’d trim a track myself but a couple could go missing without being a big loss.

Corgan thought of this as a concept record about a teenage day in the life, and despite this being his concept for once the entire band contributed arrangements, solos, and played their instruments. It does sound like more collaboration instead of being a one man gang, for sure. 

But this is an album that is tough to listen to all at once, simply because it’s just way too long. The extended endings on many songs make one say ‘get ON with it’.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: One of the outtakes was a pastiche of about 70 songs that they demoed and / or considered for the album.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, of course. The original vinyl version had two extra tracks. They released another version with lots of extras and demos and a live DVD.

 GRADE: A-: I don’t know if it deserves to be cut down to a single album, because of the breadth, but an editor was really needed on some tracks for it to earn an A.

Smashing Pumpkins – Siamese Dream

ARTIST: Smashing Pumpkins 

TITLE: Siamese Dream

YEAR RELEASED: 1993

CHART ACTION:  US #10, UK #4

SINGLES: Cherub Rock (#7 Alternative, #23 Mainstream, #31 UK), Today (#103 US, #4 Alternative, #28 Mainstream, #44 UK), Disarm (#48 Airplay, #8 Alternative, #5 Mainstream, #11 UK, Rocket (#28 Mainstream. #89 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Starboy, Mayonaise

LINEUP: Billy Corgan, D’Arcy Wretzsky, James Iha, Jimmy Chamberlain. Mike Mills played piano on a track. Eric Remschneider and David Ragsdale played the string parts.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The album that put the Pumpkins on the map, and still a favorite of Generation X today.

 SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The first thing you notice about Siamese Dream is the guitar sound. THE guitar sound that made Billy Corgan famous. Yes it was all over Gish, but here, it’s layered and layered to an inch of its life. Producer Butch Vig and Corgan constructed a monolith of sound. There are pages on the ‘net and videos about that tone

Then there’s the songs. Here’s where Billy and the Pumpkins perfect (or steal) the famous Pixies Loud-Soft-Loud (or Soft-Loud-Soft, depending). The songs here are long, sprawling discourses – mostly on mental health and other assorted issues. There’s some dialing back of the alt-rock pummeling, with two tracks (famously “Disarm”) being string-driven, and songs like “Today” which crank down the urgency to bring some emotional heft.

Most of the songs are very familiar to the Gen X Alt-Rock masses, but before writing this review I had to wonder when I played the whole thing through. It just seems like it goes on forever, with many tracks (five) over five minutes long, and others just seem long. Some of those long cuts seem a bit ponderous and momentum-stalling.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This took a long time and was way over budget. There are conflicting reports on how much James Iha and D’Arcy actually played on the record.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, with lots of bonus tracks and demos.

GRADE: A-: It’s an alt-rock touchstone, but it’s got its flaws and needed some pruning.

The Smashing Pumpkins – Gish

ARTIST: The Smashing Pumpkins       220px-SmashingPumpkins-Gish

TITLE:  Gish

YEAR RELEASED: 1991

CHART ACTION: #195

SINGLES: Siva, Rhinoceros (#27 US Alternative), I Am One (#73 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Tristessa

LINEUP: Billy Corgan, James Iha, D’Arcy Wretzky, Jimmy Chamberlain

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Chicago indie rock band releases album with heavenly guitar tones, with some great energetic cuts and some plodding tracks.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The guitars and the drums are the things you notice upon hearing this record. The drums, performed with great aplomb by Jimmy Chamberlain, are absolutely fantastic. They keep the beat (of course), but add color and flavor with rolls and fills way above your standard indie rock fare.

Corgan (and Iha, but mostly Corgan) has a wonderful tone on this album. The guitars have great energy, and the riffs and hooks blend right into the powerful leads. The guitars combined with the jazzy drumming make this great for those who love to air-guitar and air-drum.

The songs? Well, for my ears, the ones with the most energy and verve are the ones that really rock. The slower the songs (like “Rhinoceros”) plod on a bit too long. Still, over half the cuts have IT, and a lot of bands never get IT.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This took 30 days to record, and Corgan had a nervous breakdown during the sessions. This wouldn’t be the first time. Also, “Tristessa” and “I Am One” were released as indie 45’s with different recordings.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, with a whole CD of outtakes.

GRADE: A-: The tremendous rockers outweigh the plodders, and this is a great snapshot of the times as well.