MELLON COLLIE AND THE INFINITE SADNESS
Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (Virgin)
With their popular coupling of baroque guitar and whisper-to-a-scream vocals, Smashing Pumpkins have made Virgin Records and programmers at floundering dinosaur-rock stations very, very happy. While other stars in their genre reel from the burdens of stardom and that pop-culture oxymoron called "alternative success," Billy "Don't Call Me A Studio Wunderkind" Corgan and the band have been just fine with all the attention, thanks. Critics, however, have waited with bated breath to witness the toppling of His Highness of Alternative Rock. Back in 1993--after multiple dispatches from the Pumpkins' warzone reported technical squabbles and irreconcilable personality differences--it seemed as if Corgan's detractors were going to get their malicious wish. Well, here's a bit of advice to the naysayer: don't hold your breath, baby.
The two-CD "MELLON COLLIE AND THE INFINITE SADNESS" is a big, fat, super-pretentious sonic monolith that just happens to be a sweet, superb masterwork. Anyone who thought that Corgan had plumbed the depths of his prepubescent angst on "SIAMESE DREAM" (and in therapeutic conversations with journalists) will be pleasantly surprised. Corgan has many more skeletons, ghosts, bats and Godzillas in his closet--and, boy, are they ugly. His gory ghoulies roam freely on the Corgan/Flood co-produced "MELLON COLLIE," conjuring some of the darkest neo-gothic stuff in the band's history.
But "MELLON COLLIE" also has a light side...and it has a classical side...and it has a '70s-rock side...and it has an industrial-gothic side..and so on. From the first strains of "Mellon Collie," a highfalutin' instrumental, one scary thought strikes hard: "Oh God, forget all the 'New Boston' type-casting, Smashing Pumpkins have become the Moody Blues of the '90s!" Hang on for three minutes, though, because "Tonight, Tonight" blends Corgan's orchestrals with grand guitar and his trademark self-flagellating spin on things. Rest assured, Corgan and Co. have not gone all soft and fluffy on us--he's the guy who's not afraid to try jumping the moon even if he knows he'll land on his butt in a lagoon of disillusionment.
"MELLON COLLIE" is split into two halves: day ("Dawn to Dusk") and night ("Twilight to Starlight"). The nighttime nether world of part two guns it, full-throttle, into bald-faced heavy metal tributes to Corgan's boyhood heroes in Black Sabbath. But that doesn't mean that this double header is divided into light and dark--we all know that some of the ugliest things happen in broad daylight. The album's arena-rock throwaway, "Bullet with Butterfly Wings," is the "rat in a cage" button-pusher, just the first of a bunch of tailor-made-for-radio hits on "MELLON COLLIE," but that's the kind of song that Corgan could dream up in his sleep. Smashing Pumpkins can do better than that, and they prove their breadth and scope with the cataclysmic rocker "X.Y.U.," the lovestruck "Thirty-Three" and the desperate clinging of "In The Arms of Sleep."
After all the critical spitwads spewed at him for being an artsy control freak, who could help but wonder, when first hearing about this two-disc monster, if Corgan hadn't truly lost his mind ? In fact, even he felt compelled to wag a paternal finger at MTV News: "Now, don't call it a concept album," he forewarned. Okay, Billy, so we won't call it a concept album. Because, you're right, that tag might conjure up some rather ugly, brown-shag-cushioned '70s memories that many of us would rather forget. We won't call it a concept album simply because it's NOT a concept album. We'll just call it amazing, OK?
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