The Smashing Pumpkins “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness”


Smashing_Pumpkins_-_Mellon_Collie_And_The_Infinite_Sadness(24 October 1995, Virgin)

It’s weird to think that twenty years ago The Smashing Pumpkins were the biggest rock band in the world and my personal favorite.

What the hell happened?

It should be noted that I now believe double albums are a little overblown and self-indulgent. Aside from The Wall and The Beatles I can’t think of a double album that couldn’t be cut down to one disc and have been better for it (It should be noted that because Goodbye Yellow Brick Road and Exile on Main Street fit onto one CD they aren’t doubles in my book). But even considering other grunge-era doubles from NIN and Jerry Cantrell, Mellon Collie comes across as excessively flatulent.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s some great shit on here. But there’s also some total shit. I appreciate that they (by that I mean Billy Corgan) were trying to branch out and explore new sounds, but this would have been so much better if it were a single album. They could have easily cut the fat and had one of the best albums of the decade. Instead… well.

Disc 1, “Dawn to Dusk,” starts out strong with a string of hit singles. “Tonight, Tonight” is an epic song with strings and one of the greatest music videos of all time. “Zero” blew my mind when I first heard it. I don’t think I’d ever heard a guitar riff comprised entirely of octaves, harmonics and a ton of distortion. “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” is still a classic as it’s easy to sing along to and deals with that feeling of helplessness we all get from time to time. And scattered among these songs are some other great tracks. The title-track opener was always a favorite. I’m a sucker for piano and something about opening the album with an piano interlude always struck me as fitting. “Jellybean” is a great fuzzed out rocker and “Here is No Why” has always reminded me of “Ziggy Stardust.” The riffs are a little similar.

And then “To Forgive” stops the rock train in it’s tracks. I remember liking that song as a teenager, but now it just sounds wimpy and bland to me. There are a few good songs on second half of the first disc. “Muzzle” and “Love” are solid. “Porcelina of the Vast Ocean” would be a great tune if it was shorter than 9:20. Some bands can pull off a song that long and keep it interesting, The Smashing Pumpkins aren’t one of them.

It’s interesting to note that among this mostly great disc appears the biggest, steaming-pile-of-shit song to ever appear on a rock record. I defy you to bring me a song worse than “Cupid de Locke.” I know you’re going to try and I’m sure there are a few contenders out there, but I just really think that this is the worst rock song of all time. Definitely the worst of the 90s.

 

Normally with a double album I may have to break the review into two parts. But this isn’t necessary with Mellon Collie as disc 2, “Twilight to Starlight,” is at best completely forgettable. And at worst, you remember how bad it sucks. There are a few good tracks. Opener “Where The Boys Fear To Tread” has some great guitar riffs, but no hooks or chorus. “Bodies” and “Through The Eyes of Ruby” are both pretty solid songs. “1979” was their biggest hit and is still a staple on rock radio, but it’s not really a good time rocker. “Stumbleine” is a decent acoustic piece.

What’s interesting is that until listening to this album for the review I couldn’t remember anything from the last 3 tracks. And I’m guessing I’ll forget all about them by the time this is published. The band shows signs of life on “X.Y.U.” where they try heavy metal, but they don’t really pull it off. They should stick with hard rock because Corgan’s whiny voice doesn’t sound good when pushed to the breaking point. And what the hell is with “Thirty-Three”? I’m actually embarrassed that the song was a hit single. Now I know how people who lived through the disco era felt.

The Smashing Pumpkins 1995The most amazing thing about this album is that it was a high water mark for the Pumpkins. It was all downhill from here. They fired this album’s MVP, drummer Jimmy Chamberlain (all because of one OD and one dead touring keyboardist), and their next album Adore was completely forgettable. They still haven’t recovered, but Billy Corgan doesn’t believe that.

If you were lucky enough to not have bought this album yet, don’t.

Happy Monday


I’ve been working a lot of overtime lately. I should be closing on a house after work today so I figure I need all the cash I can get. This led me to working three twelve-hour shifts last week plus Saturday for a total of 60 hours. I always go in early so one day I was doing whatever and being grumpy about not getting enough sleep when this song came on my MP3 player.

I figure if it was enough to cheer me up in that mood, it should be enough to cheer everyone up on Monday morning.

Enjoy!

Beck “Mellow Gold”


MellowGold(1 March 1994 DGC)

Have you ever come across an album that you really enjoy – by a band that you don’t? I don’t want to imply that I dislike everything Beck’s done aside from Mellow Gold, but I wouldn’t call myself a fan. I did like “Devil’s Haircut” from Odelay, but that’s about it. I had a girlfriend who was a big fan, but I never got into Odelay. And as such I didn’t bother to listen to Mutations or anything else until the huge buzz around Morning Phase caused me to listen to that album last year. I still have to say that Mellow Gold is the only Beck album I enjoy.

I suppose a big part of this is the lo-fi quality of this album. It sounds like it was recorded on a cheap boombox in a shed. But that suits Beck’s songs and style more than the polish of the Dust Brothers and professional studios.

I’m sure everyone knows the song “Loser.” I really enjoy that song and not only is it the best mixing of folk and rap since Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” it’s also the only example of the mixture I can think of. I know Beck’s music is generally considered alternative, but I think experimental folk is a more apt description.

“Pay No Mind (Snoozer)” has always been my favorite. A nice mellow voice and guitar piece with pleasant lyrics about toilets overflowing and a giant dildo crushing the sun. It makes me feel like I’m ten years old again and laughing at dirty jokes.

 

Originally I had the album on a cassette tape and when I got to the song “Truckdrivin’ Neighbors Downstairs (Yellow Sweat)” I always thought something was wrong with my tape or the player because of the slowed down vocals. Of course, the rest of the album was fine so after a few listens I realized this was the way it was supposed to be.

“Beercan” sounds like something I heard in a commercial with it’s ‘How do you like me now?’ hook. Maybe that’s where Toby Keith got the idea for his much bigger song. Then “Motherfuker” comes at you and kicks you in the head with something I can only describe as faux-metal.

The album is littered with things I love. Scratchy distorted vocals, odd samples and crazy nonsensical lyrics (my favorite may be ‘And she’s coming after me with the butterfly net’ from “Soul Sucking Jerk”). This is just great acoustic guitar driven songwriting with a lot of goofy production thrown over it. It’s the kind of music I would like to record, but I don’t have the talent or the patience to pull it off.

Of course, nobody else has made an album that sounds like Mellow Gold either.

What if…

Image


This is my 200th post!

There are plenty of magazines about sex and a few about Rock and Roll, but there aren’t many drug magazines. What if High Times wasn’t the only drug magazine on the market? What would a new drug magazine look like? What would they cover?

cocaine aficianado

Kittie “I’ve Failed You”


Kittie "I've Failed You" (E1 Music, 2011)

I was a little disappointed by Kittie’s newest release. This isn’t so much a criticism of I’ve Failed You as it is praise of their previous effort, In The Black. That was the best album they’ve ever put out and I don’t know how any band could follow it. Perhaps they should have started their career spanning documentary before working on I’ve Failed You.

The album starts out solid with the chugchugchug of the title track. Morgan Landers’ Linda Blair vocals mesh well with the blistering guitar riffs, but “We Are The Lamb” doesn’t have the same hook or energy and by the second song I’d like to hear her clean voice, although “Lamb” does have a superior guitar solo. “What Have I Done?” is a nice, long slow burner with beautiful lead work. I also really enjoy “Empires (Part 1),” an acoustic instrumental into the great “Empires (Part 2).”

 

The second half isn’t as strong, but there’s some cool harmonizing guitar work on “Already Dead.” “Never Come Home” features one of those vocal hooks that make me love Morgan Lander so much. And “Time Never Heals” is a great mid-tempo closer. I’m not sure why, but I love it when artists end albums with slower, plaintive tracks. Plus it has the best solo I’ve ever heard from this band. (And perhaps one of the best outro solos from any band.)

It’s interesting to hear females playing lead guitar. Until I thought about it I didn’t realize that there really aren’t any female lead players. I’m not sure why that is, I’m sure women can add something to the art form. After all, they’ve managed to make contributions to every other aspect of art, literature and life.

I’m also a little surprised that Tara McLeod’s solos don’t sound feminine. I know that sounds sexist, but hear me out for a minute – Any guitar player will tell you that the biggest influence on your sound is your fingertips. Amps, fine woods and distortion pedals make a difference, but most of a players sound comes from their fingers. Two people with identical rigs can sound different because of this. Now, we all know that men and women are physically different. If they weren’t we’d all be bisexual. We all know that female voices sound different (most of the time) so I guess I was thinking that lead guitar work might also have this difference.

Of course, I can’t explain why I wouldn’t have noticed it in a girls chord or bass work.

Tara, call me? Please?

Tara, call me? Please?

Even though I’ve Failed You isn’t my favorite Kittie album, I still have to praise them for taking chances and not re-releasing the same album over and over like so many artists I loved from 1999 have done. I’m more interested in a band that grows, matures and challenges themselves than I am in a group that just plays it safe with a few radio-friendly hits and some filler.

And while I won’t lie and say the fact that this group is composed of four attractive females has nothing to do with my love for them, it is nice that as the father of a little girl I can point to at least one all-girl group from my generation and say “See! You don’t have to be a teenybopper singer or a bass player! You can ROCK too!”