Select magazine December 1995.
(Sent to us by Tim Robinson)
Billy Corgan is rich, famous and probably has a really nice house, but he's still a mopey bugger. If you were hoping 'Siamese Dream 's post-grunge global domination would've put a smile on his cherubic features, you'll be disappointed. Smashing Pumpkins' third album, their second double in a row, is a 28-song, two-hour trip into the fractured psyche of whining Billy Corgan. And misery has never been so much fun.
'Mellon Collie' is a devastating broadside from Yank Rock, a reminder to a world gone bonkers for Britpop that neurotics with guitars still count - that you don't need a second-hand suit to be interesting. It's an extreme album from an outfit keen to prove they amount to more than inter-personnel rocking and post-Kurt 'grunge' rock. It's better than 'Siamese Dream'. And that was ace.
But 'Mellon Collie' is not an 'easy' record. And it complicates matters by being divided. The first half, subtitled 'Dawn to Dusk', is reasonably familiar. The band still sound like you favorite '70s rockers playing all at once. It's controlled rage and roaring riffs - Kiss for Camus readers. But this time, Corgan's gift for melody - the cornerstone of the Pumpkins' appeal - is often buried under those towering guitars.
The delicately labeled 'Fuck You (Ode to No One)' begins by replicating a squadron of bombers taking off, and just gets louder. And it takes time to dig beneath the pervasive twilight atmosphere provided by super-producer Flood (Depeche mode, U2, PJ Harvey). His touch is all over 'Love', which swims in distorted vocal and quasi-industrial clattering. It's Cheap Trick by way of NIN. But the ballads, when they come, make past pinnacles like 'Disarm' seem almost hamfisted. The baroque 'Cupid de Locke' is unspeakably gorgeous.
The album's second segment, entitled 'Twilight to Starlight', is where things really take off. More therapy than music, it's the emotional meat of 'Mellon Collie', an eclectic collection of songs schizophrenic enough to accurately represent Corgan's pubescent "I love/I hate" worldview. It lurches from Corgan, screaming into a headwind of sheet metal guitar ('X.Y.U.'), to the clippety-clop Bontempi rhythms of 'We Only Come Out At Night', pitter-patterings that soften a typically desolate lyric about romantic alienation. One moment it's "love is suicide"('Bodies') then we meet someone "as beautiful as the sky"('Beautiful', the LP's oasis of positivity). It makes for awesome listening, but you do worry for the poor chap's sanity.
Which is probably the idea. Corgan feels like a misfit, but would be lost without his misanthropy - whereas someone like Jarvis Cocker was born a genuine outsider, and made it his trump card. The Britpop which 'Mellon Collie' is pitched against, and which Corgan so detests, inherits this island's stiff upper lip tradition. If you're young, successful and British, you're "mad for it" or enjoy a mythical world of musical hall and pigeons. If you're American, you tell everyone how dreadful you feel - Trent Reznor couldn't write "smoke a fag/put it out" without adding "on your arm". Ultimately, both routes are about prolonging adolescence.
'Mellon Collie' should make Pearl Jam consider the dole, and will remain a touchstone long after you've flogged your Menswear album down the second-hand shop.
Damon should watch his back, because the Yanks aren't dead yet. Billy Corgan's back with probably The Best Rock Band In The World. But he still needs to cheer up.
4 out of 5
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