One may presume that if I were fanatical about any genre of music, it would be heavy metal and most of its various subgenres. That is the exact reason why it may surprise people when I say this: I LOVE “MELLON COLLIE AND THE INFINITE SADNESS!!!” This is a double album assembled by the moody, artsy alternative rock group The Smashing Pumpkins. It is their third full-length album, one of their most commercially and critically successful and (in my opinion) their finest achievement.
Lead guitarist and vocalist, Billy Corgan, once compared the album in an interview to the Pink Floyd album “The Wall” but for Generation X. This analogy could not be more accurate. Both are double albums. Both of these bands represent generations of youthful, artsy types. Both express lyrics and music that describe the depression and gloom of life. Most importantly, both albums are flipping sweet. It has been over two month since I went into the reviewing process of this album and I have constantly been listening to certain songs over and over ever since. In some cases, I appreciated the songs even more afterwards.
A beautiful instrumental piano ballad named after the album opens it up, followed by “Tonight Tonight.” This track incorporates orchestra instruments to the recognizable Smashing Pumpkins sound. The song arrangement is close to perfect, the dynamics between the intense chorus and the gentle verses are stunning and the orchestra instruments give the track a distinct beauty that you would not come to expect from the average alternative rock band. The overall presentation is completely fantastic, telling the world that the Smashing Pumpkins have obviously matured in their ambitions as musicians.
“Jellybelly,” however, alludes to the heavier, guitar-driven side of the band. And it does a damn fine job at it! Though it is simple at its core, the track is one of my favorites from the album. It does a near-perfect job of showing how intense and heavy the band can get. All musicians are giving their all during this song (guitar and drums stood out to me the most), the energy displayed is unmatchable and the song’s structure is the very definition of smooth. In terms of heavy Smashing Pumpkins material, you simply cannot go wrong with this track.
That is just the thing as to why I absolutely adore this album. The Smashing Pumpkins are incredibly proficient at producing two songs of two completely disconnected genres. Listening through this album, you will be amazed by the fact that every song is just as different from the last. Genres that the album tackles include standard 90’s grunge-tinged alternative rock fare (“Here Is No Why”), humble acoustic compositions (“Take Me Down” and “Stumbleine”), staggeringly heavy alt-metal (“Tales of a Scorched Earth” and “X.Y.U”), Garbage-esque electronica (“Love”) and jazz-based, lounge-style tunes (“To Forgive” and “In The Arms of Sleep”) just to name a few. Hell, listen to “Cupid De Locke” and you will get the sensation that you are ascending to heaven, complete with harps and saltshakers as the basic instruments. Now what all of these songs have in common is that they are all great representations of the genres they are aiming to be. Some of these songs are better than others, obviously, but I honestly cannot say anything except that I enjoyed all the different routes the album undertook throughout its two-hour duration.
Now to examine a few of my other favorites: “Porcelina Of The Vast Oceans” is a marvelous nine-and-a-half minute epic whose dynamics frequently alternate between dreamy tranquility and assaulting heaviness. The track contains little to no dull moments thanks to this tactic, along with its appealing and unconventional song structure. No matter how many times I listen, the extensive length never hits me; it passes me right by effortlessly and I enjoy every moment.
Following in the same vein as “Jellybelly,” “F**k You (An Ode To No One)” is easily the second best heavy song on the album. Moving at a rapid velocity from beginning to end, the track showcases a large amount of energy on all fronts. Whether it is the lyrics, the vocal delivery, the distorted guitar work or the fast paced drum section, the song will make you want to fight with the amount of blind fury it provokes. The lyrics, contrary to the song’s title, contain no expletives. This, however, doesn’t stop them from inciting anger on par with Rage Against the Machine or Tool standards. This ‘ode’ is a great track and is one of the best on the album.
Slowing down the tempo but still providing the goods is “Bodies” (not to be confused with the Drowning Pool single of the same name). “Bodies” is a heavy track during most of its length, save for a small breakdown in the middle. The pacing is what makes the song work well with me. It moves along with a grooving beat from the drums and a steady, deliberate rhythm with both the guitar and bass. Billy Corgan’s vocals are at their most forceful during this song, as he is literally screaming during the chorus. While it did not stand out upon my first listening, “Bodies” has largely grown on me since then.
In regards to singles, “Mellon Collie” contains some of the most well-known and revered Smashing Pumpkins songs of their entire career. “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” holds some of the darkest verse riffs on the album and one of the most immortal lines in rock history (“Despite all my rage, I am still just a rat in a cage”). Even if the song doesn’t compare to the lesser-known tracks found elsewhere on the album, I still love the song. I will always respect it for introducing me to the Smashing Pumpkins’ unique variety of alt-rock.
Another single is the moderate-tempo beast titled “Zero.” Despite its diminutive length, the track still packs a lot of punch. It is a track in which the first thing you will notice is most likely the droning guitar riff, which develops to be exceptionally addictive. Another impressive feature is the change of dynamics in Billy Corgan’s voice, which at one moment is calmly singing in tune and the next is screaming out the lyrics a la “Bodies.” An infectious listen from start to finish, “Zero” captures the Pumpkins signature sound like no other.
I can literally go on all day about why I strongly recommend “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness” in its entirety, but you would just be hearing more or less of the same thing. From the beautiful ballad “Galapogos” to the swinging piano stylings of “Lily (My One And Only)” to the upbeat electronic pounding of “Beautiful”, this album is total greatness from top to bottom. I would have never thought it would be this way, but I simply cannot deny it. “Mellon Collie”… I LOVE YOU!