The Smashing Pumpkins
Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness
Review By Rob Sheffield
Rating: 7 out of 10
You have to give the Smashing Pumpkins credit for chutzpah. Never before has any band made such a risky move into the 70's territory of the rock opera. The two discs of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness narrate one of Billy Corgan's long nights of the soul, divided into "Dawn to Dusk" and "Twilight to Starlight." The liberetto is crammed with nursery rhymes and fairy tales, Cupid and Psyche, Romeo and Juliet, Mary and her little lamb. Billy is not joking when he says he's "intoxicated with madness/I'm in love with my sadness." Like Pink Floyd's The Wall, Mellon Collie is teen alienation elevated to a High Mass.
The Pumpkins back up Billy with a huge roar that supports the conceptual overkill. Mellon Collie peaks high with their greatest song yet "1979," a wiry skeletal guitar groove about the good old days of being a suburban teen discovering new wave. But other than that, Smashing Pumpkins don't really rock-they're more interested in putting together sounds the way some people erect monuments. James Iha is still earning his Jimmy page merit badge, and when he stretches out into one of his psychedelic guitar epics, the loud volume just encourages Billy to shriek-and boy, can he. Quiet ballads such as "Tonight, Tonight," "Stumbeleine," and "Galapogos" have a mythic presence, and the soft-spoken interludes help set the stage for the moments when Billy swoops into his trademark squawk for completely unironic declamations like "Love is suicide!"
Whether you love Billy or hate him, Mellon Collie is his testament to the world. He's become a rock icon-nerdy by nature, the boy with the least cake, a grown man who dresses like Little Orphan Annie. Billy inflates his dysfunctional emotins to the scale of grand opera and then invites the whole world to stare. Where Eddie Vedder worries about being corrupted by the spotlight, Billy craves it. His fans trust him because he seems like an innocent child at play in the fields of hype, a place that feels as natural to him as the Rocky Mountains felt to John Denver. the two discs of Mellon Collie give him the room he needs to express himself, and it's the catchiest argument for misery he's ever made.
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