MUSIC REVIEW | Smashing Pumpkins – Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (1995)

To recap Monday’s review…  Sometime in the early to mid 90s, I buy Smashing Pumpkin’s Siamese Dream and it’s a mind blower.  Still one of my favourite albums of all time. 1995, I buy Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, listen to it once, and spend the next 20 years declaring it pretentious, indulgent and just plain terrible. 2015, I begin to wonder if my praise for one and disdain for the other should be put to the test by listening to them both, beginning to end and back to back.  So here we go, as I devote another two hours of my life to what I assume is a terrible, terrible double album.

What’s worse than the pointlessness of the opening title track, a meandering several minutes of pretty, but also pretty pointless piano?  How about the total redundancy of Tonight, Tonight?  It’s nothing more than Disarm, the low point of Siamese Dream, watered down to be even more tedious.  Tonight, Tonight even has the gall to still be played semi regularly on radio today. That song is as bold as bloody brass.

Jellybelly is an immediate improvement as we get some of the fuzzed out guitars and Corgan whine/screams that were responsible for much of the awesome on Siamese Dream.   Which leads right into Zero, one of only two songs on this entire album I’ve ever willingly listened to more than once since 1995.  Because, it’s one of only two songs on this album that could go toe to toe with anything in Siamese Dream.

And after the half assed attempt to rock that is Here is No Why, we get to the second of the two songs on this entire album I’ve ever willingly listened to more than once since 1995.  Bullet With Butterfly Wings was a hit single.  And while other “hits” for Smashing Pumpkins tended to be in the Disarm or Tonight, Tonight vibe, Butterlfy Wings actually rocked, hard.  Which added to my high hopes for Mellon Collie back in the day.  Thinking about that, I should hate Bullet With Butterfly Wings, because it’s the song that made drop $30, then take a bath on the resale when I offloaded it to a mate the next day for $10!

The rest of disc one is just a cautionary tale about being a victim of your own success.  Billy Corgan seems like the kind of dude who was probably acting like an arrogant, egotistical rock star long before he was an actual rock star.  Songs like To Forgive, Love and Cupid De Locke are what it sounds like when someone is given too much freedom and too much praise and has their arrogance indulged.  All of a sudden, they think they can fart in front of a microphone and call it a song.  Even worse, the record label convinces themselves that they think it’s a song too.  Even worse again, sycophantic fans believe it, and shit like Mellon Collie shifts a butt load of units.  A fart is not a song, people.  A fart is not a song.

Disc two starts with the distinct uptick in overall quality that is Where Boys Fear to Tread and Bodies.  They’re messy and dark, and even feel organically so.  Disc one just had too much stink of pandering to what the band thought made Siamese Dream a hit, instead of just making music that came natural to them.  What am I basing that on?  My own uninformed opinion and conjecture.  That’s what.

Going in to this album, I was already dreading having to sit through 1979.  I was ready for that.  What I wasn’t ready for was the four minutes of bull shit before it that is In the Arms of Sleep.  I assume the thinking in sequencing these tracks was that 1979 wouldn’t seem quite so aimless and boing if it was preceded by something even more aimless and boring.

When I hear a song like Taste of a Scorched Earth, it makes me angry.  Not angry because I don’t like it, angry because I really love it.  Angry because it proves Corgan and co were still capable of awesome, loud, visceral, thumping rock, yet they still insisted on filling this double disc monstrosity with so much crap.

The remaining seven songs (yes, I’m 700 odd words into this review, and there are still seven songs to go!) are nowhere good enough to get excited about, while also being nowhere bad enough to get angry about.  They’re the worst kind of bland, boring, beige, barely-songs that don’t even register enough to be judged in terms of good or bad.

Mellon Collie isn’t just too long and indulgent because it’s two discs.  It’s so long and so indulgent, each disc is individually too long.  You cut this thing in half, there’d still be too much bullshit.  Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness is a terrible, terrible double album, that would have made a just OK EP.  Actually, even that’s being generous to the Smashing Pumpkins of 1995.  Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness is a terrible, terrible double album, that would have made a pretty great double A-side if you ditched everything but Zero and Bullet With Butterfly Wings.

Smashing Pumpkins

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