Formed in Chicago in 1988, The Smashing Pumpkins is an alternative American rock band that blew the socks off music lovers across the globe. Their third album, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness was released over 20 years ago, and back in 1995, they announced that it would be released as a double album. This was considered commercial suicide, but it turned out to be one of the greatest alternative rock albums of the 90s, and even now it stands the test of time.
28 songs strong, Mellon Collie, seemed to be the only way for Corgan to contain his writing streak, and it’s worth every track. Unlike most albums, this one doesn’t have a structure. There is no theme, no story to be told through each of the songs being played in order. No two songs are the same, and you could pick a handful at random and still end up with an incredibly diverse selection of tunes. In fact, the stylistic range that this album contains is part of what makes it so appealing.
When you hit play, you might expect to be hit with the sound that made them famous from Siamese Dreams, but prepared to be pleasantly surprised by a pleasant and almost relaxing piano ode in the form of Mellon Collie. It’s followed on by the pomp and bursting string music that Tonight, Tonight brings. It’s an emotional, orchestral track that will rock you to your core, and you won’t come across a rocking guitar until you reach the third track.
When Jellybelly begins to play, you’re hit with the thunder of the guitar and drums, and it will vibrate throughout body and soul. Bullet with Butterfly Wings has become one of the most iconic Smashing Pumpkin songs, with its angsty tone and lyrics coupled beautifully with the rumbling fury of the drums. Similarly, you have the cyberpunk anthem, Zero, that is sure to rock the socks off anyone who dares listen.
Ranging from sweet homages in We Only Come Out at Night to tracks that strip the music down to its core – an acoustic guitar and a sole voice – in Stumbeline, none of these tracks sound like they are from the same band, let alone one album. However, this isn’t a bad thing. If anything, it shows the range that The Smashing Pumpkins are capable of, and the undefeated talent that Corgan has when it comes to writing music.
This band has always been known for their confidence. After all, not many groups show up to Reading Festival and have most of the music they play as new and unheard songs. A lot of this confidence is what contributed to the success of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, and it’s the secret weapon that most bands are missing when it comes to big moves like double album releases – mild arrogance. Even two decades on, this remains one of the greatest alternative rock albums ever made.