My two good friends Traci and Julius played the next band to be reviewed last weekend while I was away. I couldn’t help but ask myself: “Why don’t I have any albums by them?” It is a band that I have heard many times before on the radio or from friends, and have even dreamed of seeing for some time. Over the course of a few days, I was finally able to listen to the majority of their albums, and was again surprised why it took this long for me to listen to them. The band? The Smashing Pumpkins.
Headed by Billy Corgan through various lineups, The Smashing Pumpkins is a cliché 90’s rock band, albeit one of the most talented of that time. Having been honored with several awards over the years, The Smashing Pumpkins have released some of the most recognized songs in modern rock history. From songs like “Today” and “Cherub Rock”, to their newer hits “Tarantula” and “That’s the Way (My Love Is)”, I couldn’t believe how many songs I’ve heard from them that I only consciously recognized. After a recommendation from my friends, I decided that I had to focus on their album “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.”
Loosely based on the concept of day and night, Corgan further states that this album conveys “the human condition of mortal sorrow.” He goes on to relate this album to all the feelings he experienced as a youth, but couldn’t express until he was older. Being compared to albums like The Beatles “White Album” and Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” in concept, this album was meant to be the voice of the 90’s teenage generation. (source) As I listen to this album, I can hear Billy’s frustration and sorrow in every song, which reminds me of my own teenage angst. The majority of the songs on the album redirect the listener to their teenage years, where love was lost, and when others couldn’t understand our problems. The song “In the Arms of Sleep” relates to that awful feeling of unrequited love. The song “Zero” reminds me of different disorders we can experience especially in our youth. Fortunately, other songs on this album deliver messages and lessons to the audience. Songs like “Tonight Tonight” teach us to believe in ourselves. “1979” brings a sense of nostalgia, but also teaches us to live each day at its fullest.
The heavy guitar is reminiscent of bands like Soundgarden, Nirvana, and Stone Temple Pilots. Besides the few ballads on the album, each song contains overdriven guitars with a plethora of sound effects. Like most albums I listen to, I love picking a different instrument to focus on each time, to hear the direction of where they’re going, and to understand why each band member uses the chords and scales that they use.
The best thing about this album is Corgan’s vocals. Despite being one of those voices that you either love or hate, one cannot disagree that Corgan’s vocals are perfect for this album. His youthful screams in songs like “Tales of a Scorched Earth” bring out that anxiety we experience from time to time, yet his vocals in songs like “1979” are spoken as an adult reflecting on his past. As someone who has only recently heard this album for the first time, I love to sit back and wait for which vocal style Corgan will bring on the next song.
As I sit back and listen to this album, I am brought back to my middle school and high school years. Feeling similar to how Corgan felt in those days (but not to that extent), this album is a great reminder of who I was then and how it’s helped me grow into the person I am today. In the end, I wouldn’t be who I am without those experiences in the past, and just like this album, I bring a message of hope and optimism to those younger than I who have similar experiences. These feelings are best summed up in the lyrics of their last song “Farewell and Goodnight,” my favorite lyric being:
“Goodnight, my love, to every hour in every day
Goodnight, always to all that’s pure that’s in your heart”
For those who are fans of popular 90’s rock bands like Soundgarden, Nirvana, and Stone Temple Pilots, or those who want to experience an emotional roller coaster as they did in their youth, I highly recommend this album. It is by far the most interesting musical experience I’ve had this year, and I look forward to the next album that brings these same feelings.
For your viewing pleasure, here is a video of my favorite song on the album, “Tonight Tonight”: