Details Magazine
June 1998
Thanks to Gonzalo for the article

As the heroes of alternative rock burn out or fade away, some of the survivors have found inspiration in music even older than punk rock. Radiohead based the shambling structure of "Paranoid Android" on the Beatlesí "Happiness Is a Warm Gun," and now it looks like the Smashing Pumpkins have begun to identify with one of the White Albumís subtexts: Whatever doesnít kill you makes you stronger. Or at least stranger. Two years after the death of touring keyboard player Jonathan Melvoin nearly ripped apart the band, the Pumpkins have reemerged with an album that wonders aloud whether itís possible for an alternative-rock band to grow up gracefully in postalternative world. The answer would seem to be yes.

The first words Billy Corgan sings on Adore are "Twilight fades," and they set the tone for a record thatís as introspective as the previous Pumpkins records were furious. Until now, the Pumpkins have made sprawling albums with larger-than-life themes: love and hate, romance and torture, cherubs and rats. Adore evokes less sensational emotions Ė longing and disdain, for example. Itís also the first Pumpkins album thatís obsessed with grace instead of consumed with rage. Though Corganís lyrics are no less overwrought Ė "You remind me of that leak in my soul" is a peach Ė he sings many of them like lullabies, never turning his voice into the nasal weapon it was on "Bullet With Butterfly Wings."

Corgan designs song as if they were baroque interiors. Heís always believed God is in the details; now, as Adoreís producer, he seems to think godliness sounds even better if you double-track the vocals and add a touch of reverb. He also occasionally puts down his guitar to rummage through a toolbox of electronic beats, not as a way to sound futuristic, but as a method of pursuing his real instrument: the recording studio itself. The result isnít alterna-tronica, but a kinder, gentler Smashing Pumpkins.

Like the White Album, Adore starts off strong, rambles brilliantly, and then disintegrates into eccentricity. The second song (and first single), "Ava Adore," sounds like a grinding meeting of the Aphex Twin and Nine Inch Nails, and "Pug" is a sci-fi supernova, complete with a ray-gun synthesizer solo. After this, the going gets weird Ė "Shame" is a womb-edelic lament that evokes a gray walk by the ocean. Then the album veers into vaudevillian melodrama with the a cappella singing and electronic croaks of "Behold! The Night Mare." Billy Corganís always been an elegant weirdo, but heís never gotten so lost in his own dreamworld.

Despite its seductive lulls and emotional complexity, Adore is less moving than spectacular, and itís a spectacle produced, directed, written by, and starring Billy Corgan. He sound like heís made peace with his inner demons, but heís also retreated so far behind his wall of tweaked sounds and neo-romantic lyrics that Adore is often too arcane to telegraph much literal meaning. Still, itís fascinating to hear the Pumpkins mature beyond hissy fits into sunset ruminations, past guitar heroics into pop innovation. Under its state-of-the-art studio sheen, Adore is sentimental and enthralling, like campfire songs for the computer age.


Return to the Album Review Page