Remembering Smashing Pumpkins' Mellon Collie With Fondness and Weariness
Seventeen years and change on, opinions on the Smashing Pumpkins' sprawling 1995 double album Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness differ vastly from one fan to the other. Most everyone agrees it's bloated, and some even call it the beginning of the end for the band, the point when Pumpkins leader Billy Corgan went full-tilt Roger Waters.
This week Corgan reissued the diamond-selling album just in time for the holidays with deluxe packaging and extras, depending on how much you want to shell out for velvet disc holders, copious artwork, and liner notes. Prices range from $27.99 for the low-end basic release, $75 for the download with extra art, $135 for the fancy box, and $250 for the super-fan smorgasbord.
Corgan has also "painstakingly remastered" the album from the original tapes, which seems almost like an afterthought. What needed fixing?
A few weeks back Corgan talked to Rolling Stone about the albums dark tones. He's rarely spoken about Mellon Collie to the press, but with the reissue on the market he is opening up.
As the years have gone by, most fans seem to remember the Pumpkins' first two albums, Gish (1991) and Siamese Dream (1993) as the band's high-water marks. Those beloved albums were also remastered just last year.
"I loved it, but not as much as I loved Siamese Dream," said Summer Davis on Rocks Off's Facebook page. "For me Mellon Collie came at a time of sadness when my parents divorced, and I got it for Christmas and listened to it non-stop,"
Tempered with Cheap Trick and Cars-style pop moments like "Muzzle" and "1979, the '90s bleakness of Mellon Collie meant it could mean many things for everyone, which wasn't hard considering it did have 28 songs on it. The two discs, entitled "Dawn to Dusk" and "Twilight to Starlight," came loaded with plenty of angst and Corgan's signature screech.
For me, "Thirty-Three" and "We Only Come Out at Night" were standouts.
"Upon listening to it, a double album was too much for me to digest," says Jason Smith of local rock outfit Alkari. "The album rambles on too long. When I reach for a Pumpkins album now, the only ones I reach for are Gish and Siamese Dream."
The size of the album turned many people off, including younger fans who needed to save up extra cash for a double disc. Still, Mellon Collie managed to sell more than 5 million copies in the U.S.
"Instead of a double album, they could have cut out five or six filler songs and it could have been a killer album with not a single bad track," says Jake Rawls of Sundown Audio. "Instead it's a 'pretty damn good album with some meh songs on it.' That said, it's still my No. 2 album for them behind Siamese Dream."
More than likely, no one looks back on "Take Me Down," "Beautiful," "Stumbleine" or "Cupid de Locke" with fond reverence.
A few years back I edited down the album myself -- as nerds are wont to do with too much time on their hands -- using B-sides from the era that I had fallen in love with through collecting all the singles.
Those singles would be collected on The Aeroplane Flies High, a box set released in 1996, which is now a treasured fan item that sometimes runs up to $200 a box on eBay.
The 23-minute "Pastichio Medley," found on Aeroplane, is a pastiche of all the riffs and ideas that were thrown out in the Mellon Collie sessions. No telling how many songs the Silversun Pickups, Muse and tons of alt-rock also-rans cribbed from this catch-all.
The Mellon Collie that I tracked comes in at just over 41 minutes and 11 tracks. Looking back, "God" and "Ugly" shouldn't have been buried as B-sides, but I am glad I bought those compact disc and cassingles when I did.
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