Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness
CD1 and CD2 – The original double album remastered
"Faster than the speed of sound. Faster than we thought we'd go. Beneath the sound of hope.", from '1979'
Generally considered to be either the best, or 2nd best staple of the Smashing Pumpkins catalog, there's no question that Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness is Billy Corgan's most eclectic foray. The remastered version here is something less distinguishable from the original than one may desire but that's less of a knock on this new version versus an applaud towards the original, which stands the test of time just fine. Let's be honest – are you spending your money on this slightly-tinkered remastering of the original masterpiece, or for the 64 bonus tracks? I choose the latter. The remaster is primarily the vehicle to deliver this potpourri set of outtakes. Would I be more interested in a remastered version of the Beatles Abbey Road or a CD of 12 unreleased Beatles' tracks didn't make the final cut? It's not even a fair question. Give me the unreleased tracks.
Mellon Collie quickly became polarizing for many grunge-based Pumpkins fans in the mid-90's. The fans of Corgan's blazing, trademark guitar sound from Siamese Dream were left scratching their chins as they absorbed the slowed down quintuple-medley that completes Mellon Collie, "We Only Come Out at Night/Beautiful/Lily/By Starlight/Farewell and Goodnight". The leftover grungers from 1993 that were thrilled by "Hummer" had trouble adapting. In their place arrived droves of fans magnetized by the sound of "1979", "33" and the pop melodies that drop in and out throughout the double album in between the metal onslaught. It was ballsy and at the same time unstoppable. The perfect storm to wave a final good-bye to grunge and thus, raise the bar.
Mellon Collie's success set the stage for another polarizing release a couple years later with Adore. Where Melon Collie succeeded was it was the perfect playground for the most dynamic songwriter of those few short years. In the mid-90's Corgan would not be stopped and the sales success of this string of early Pumpkins' albums opened the door for a near-decade's worth of unabashed freedom in the studio. No other artist could go from the wall pounding bombast of "XYU" and "Bodies" and finish it with "Farewell and Goodnight". This wasn't KISS trying to sing "Beth" – this was a legitimate rock band that could pull off beautiful eclectic, alternative, dreamy pop music at the drop of a dime.
The final mastery of Mellon Collie is how Corgan was able to use the dysfunctional qualities of the band members (James, Jimmy, D'arcy and himself) into one last, final group-hug success story before the inevitable implosion of their personalities and relationship took over. Just as Nicole Fiorentino's voice on "Pinwheels" from Oceania gives the listener that needed break from Corgan's dominance, Mellon Collie is littered perfectly with those deep breaths of fresh air from the other band mates. Who cares if they fucking hated each other at that moment – it was those few moments of serenity that moved the album into our emotional stratosphere regardless of this train wreck love story that ended the original band lineup. Some of the greatest albums in our history was recorded by bands that hated each other at the time (The Wall, Let it Be). The moments that D'arcy and James join into the vocal mix the album simply sounds more complete to us. This, for a very brief time, was the Smashing Pumpkins we all wanted. Everything after Mellon Colliewas simply Billy Corgan. By 1998 we were spoiled and it would be so hard for Corgan to meet an expectation of fans to relive the times that even Corgan probably didn't want to necessarily relive.
The 64 bonus tracks The girth of bonus material is as good as fans can expect an artist to provide. I mean, no artist wants to provide B- material in heavy doses. In the 42 years since the Beatles broke up they've officially released fewer demos and outtakes than you can find on this single reissue of Mellon Collie. A combination of strong fidelity mixed with melodic, unreleased melodic tracks are the most sought after.
Let's play the division game for the new 64 tracks and break them each down into three categories:
- Must own
- Nice to have
DVD – live show filmed at Brixton Academy, London (1996) & Rockpalast (1996)
Disappointing only in the fact that the DVD contains no complete show, which is an obvious head-scratcher. In this day of High-Definition video quality expectations anything in Standard Definition looks like it was filmed in 1957 at this point. But there's no illusion here; viewing the original lineup during these Mellon Collie tour stops is sonically compelling. What's most gripping is the clear rage that Corgan so often illustrates onstage. Far gone is the pop and dreamy side of Mellon Collie. On tour, he is unleashed and borderlining on speed metal in front of the herculean Chamberlain and stylistic bookends to his left and right with D'arcy and Iha. It's a visual orgy as Corgan wails away like a man unleashed. Captivating material even though I'd still prefer to see it re-released on Blu-Ray format.
CD1 – the original album
Blessed heavily with the sound that made Siamese Dream the sonic springboard it became, Pisces Iscariot fits snugl on the shelves of all Pumpkins owners – somewhere close to their hearts for sentimental reasons as much as it is due to the quality of the songs. Driven entirely by the Gish/Siamese Dream timeframe, Corgan is correct in that it's less an album and more a mixtape. That doesn't exclude it from some dropdown Pumpkins' classics such as the unimaginably perfect "Whir", the bassy growl of "Blue" and the very classic Pumpkins sound in "Starla". From a song quality eyeball it falls somewhere equal to Gish, but well behind the Pumpkins best trifecta of Siamese/Mellon Collie/Adore. It's on the next shelf down from the best that Corgan ever put together – and that it's ok, because that's where it was meant to be.
The remastering does a fine job collecting all the sounds you may have think you missed from the original. The best tracks sound greater, bigger and the new additions here are brought up to the sonic standards of all the Pumpkins releases, allowing them to run together far more seamlessly. If this release had been marketed back in 1994 as a true "album" it would have stood the test of time, albeit a slight disappointment after following the monster-sized Siamese Dream. However, as a compilation it's outstanding.
Mellon Collie turned everything upside down in Pumpkinland and Pisces Iscariot was that perfect appetizer. It's that last piece of the early pre-arena Pumpkins for fans to embrace as Corgan became a far more eclectic songwriter as he hit full stride with both Mellon Collie and Adore.
Is this deluxe reissue package with the extra tracks, remastered original, DVD performance from 1988 and original demo cassette worth the price of admission? Yes, it's on the borderline of a no-brainer especially given the sonic quality of CD2 and fine package for the box itself.
CD2 – unreleased material
- Bye June (Ignoffo Sessions/2012 Mix) – Must own. Near crystal-clear quality acoustic track sung by Corgan.
- My Dahlia (Ignoffo Sessions/2012 Mix) – Must own. Another very high quality spiraling tune without the Pumpkins sound anywhere to be found. Very much a precursor towards the B-sides that littered the Mellon Collie era.
- Jesus Loves His Babies (Gish Sessions Rough Mix) – Must own. Another very worthy addition with a very trademark Gish sound. Not Gish-album worthy, but optimal for this release.
- Cinnamon Girl (Ignoffo Sessions/2012 Mix) – Nice to have. A decent rendition of a decent Neil Young song. Once again, nowhere else would this be worthy of release than a reissue such as this. This is the Pumpkins trying to sound like Neil Young versus the Pumpkins trying to repossess the original. It's not the landmark rendition we would hope for.
- Glynis (2012 Mix) – Must own. A hidden Pumpkins classic that would have fit perfectly on either of the first two albums.
- Crawl (Gish Sessions outtake) – Must own. Still yet another excellent sound quality unreleased track from the Gish days, running nearly 7 minutes long. An absolute winning streak unfolding here.
- Cinder Open (Eddy St. demo/2012 Mix) – Must own. Rather beautiful instrumental.
- Blissed (Sadlands demo/2012 Mix) – Must own. One more gem, of the many, from the Sadlands demos. Early vocal track apparent but these are why deluxe reissues add value to a catalog.
- Slunk (Live) (2012 – Remaster) – Nice to have only because of the obscurity of the song. The track itself, while sounding like true Pumpkins, has few endearing qualities compared to its peers.
- Jackie Blue – Must own. A much more worthwhile attempt at a remake than "Cinnamon Girl" provided. Classic Pumpkins sounds recapture this track near perfectly.
- Venus in Furs (Live) – Nice to have, but a rather rough mix of this live cut. A killer studio version would have looked ahead to the Adore-era sound.
- Translucent (Sadlands demo/2012 mix) – Must own. The best track on this disc.
- French Movie Theme (Siamese Sessions outtake) – Nice to have. Odd, but high quality track.
- Purr Snickety (Gish b-sides session outtake) – Must own. Great quality outtake from Gish.
- There It Goes (Demo/2012 Mix) – Must own. The 2012 mix provides this track with a full punch. Quite outstanding with the full, lighter and more pop-style Pumpkins sound taking charge. A very worthy candidate for the best piece of this collection.
- Vanilla (Ignoffo Sessions) – Must own. Finishing off a rather spectacular release of top quality studio outtakes.
- Why Am I So Tired (Live in studio demo) – Must own. A blazing layer of guitars to say good-bye. A suitable instrumental that is probably a rarity in that it's a full band effort.
DVD – basement jam, 1988
The DVD's centerpiece – a rather decent quality video from the Basement Jam in November of 1988 (taken from the Pulse Cable Access show in Chicago) is worth the price alone. Splattered along with a few random early live performances, it's a great one-time document of the earliest in Pumpkins history, much of it predating even Gish. D'arcy and Iha look less like musicians on the 1988 footage than they do as leftovers from the spring prom. Watching it more than once may not be necessary, but not many things in the world are.
1. Intro by Billy Corgan (DVD)2. Pulse Cable Show Introduction by Lou Hinkhouse (DVD) 3. There It Goes (Pulse Basement Jam – Chicago) (DVD) 4. She (Pulse Basement Jam – Chicago) (DVD) 5. She (Pulse Basement Jam – Chicago) (DVD) 6. Under Your Spell (Pulse Basement Jam – Chicago) (DVD) 7. My Eternity (Pulse Basement Jam – Chicago) (DVD) 8. My Eternity (Pulse Basement Jam – Chicago) (DVD) 9. My Eternity (Pulse Basement Jam – Chicago) (DVD) 10. My Eternity (Pulse Basement Jam – Chicago) (DVD) 11. Bleed (Pulse Basement Jam – Chicago) (DVD) 12. Nothing and Everything (Pulse Basement Jam – Chicago) (DVD) 13. Jennifer Ever (Pulse Basement Jam – Chicago) (DVD) 14. Jennifer Ever (Pulse Basement Jam – Chicago) (DVD) 15. Jennifer Ever (Pulse Basement Jam – Chicago) (DVD) 16. Jennifer Ever (Pulse Basement Jam – Chicago) (DVD) 17. Jennifer Ever (Pulse Basement Jam – Chicago) (DVD) 18. Death of a Mind (Pulse Basement Jam – Chicago) (DVD) 19. Spiteface (Pulse Basement Jam – Chicago) (DVD) 20. Blue (DVD) 21. Offer Up (DVD) 22. The Joker (DVD) 23. Slunk (DVD) 24. Dancing In The Moonlight (DVD) 25. Snap (DVD) 26. Hello Kitty Kat (DVD)
1. Jennifer Ever (Tape) 2. East (Tape) 3. Nothing And Everything (Tape) 4. Sun (Remix) (Tape) 5. She (Live) (Tape) 6. Spiteface (Tape)
Having sonic expectations at a low point here, this early cassette is actually far more delightful than you'd imagine. Rather sparkling sound quality for this reproduction of the original Pumpkins demos, released in a reproduction of its original packaging. An obvious prelude to Gish is found in nearly every track and it's one of the more pleasant surprises of the reissue. In full light here are the early Corgan vocals – already becoming a signature and disavowing any signs of the 80's hair glam rock going on at the time. A signature Pumpkins sound is clearly found on tracks like 'East' and this is a prized addition to this already stellar collection.
CD1 – the original album
By 2012 it's hard to find new words when discussing one landmark album that's in a very tiny handful of the best rock albums of the 90's. If Nirvana's opening chords to "Smells Like Teen Spirit" hadn't grasped the entire nation the world would look back upon Siamese Dream (along with Pearl Jam's Ten) as the signature albums that represented grunge at its peak and said an overdue goodbye (and door slam) to the glam rock era of the late 80's (Whitesnake, Poison, etc).
Siamese Dream is as powerful now as it was in 1993 with no band since then able to replicate the wall of guitar sound that Corgan and producer Butch Vig pulled together. While playing the remastered version of the album what's now most striking (when compared to albums such as Zeitgeist) is how Corgan was able to incorporate so many hooks into an album that had guitars coming at you from every conceivable angle. Who had time for melody? Well, Corgan did, and if you strip away the volume of guitars what you have are tiny pop gems that are almost nursery rhymes in their primal form – but reworked to set a landscape of sound that is still unmatched. Recent day impersonators (the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Amusement Parks on Fire) bleed out Siamese Dream in every track but don't even scratch the surface of songs that leak melody like 'Mayonaise', 'Hummer' and 'Luna'.
This deluxe reissue is a tour de force with top notch packaging, a full disc of Siamese-era rarities, and an outstanding DVD of a hometown performance from 1993. This album, along with Nevermind and The Bends may stand as the top three rock albums in the first half of the 90's. What's interesting is the direction that the Pumpkins took after 1993. As they prepped Mellon Collie, Nirvana self-destructed in the most tangible method possible and Pearl Jam decided to just get too strange for their fans. This left bands like the Pumpkins and Radiohead as the unofficial greatest bands in the world as the decade came to a close. Unfortunately for the Pumpkins, the dysfunction of the mid-90's took its toll, but not before a series of remarkable albums (none better than Siamese Dream) became etched into our memory.
CD2 – unreleased material
- Pissant (Rough Mix) – Skip it. Very close to the original version.
- Siamese Dream (Broadway rehearsal demo) – Must own. Intense, more garage-based jam than anything on the original album.
- STP (rehearsal demo) – Must own. Another heavy, intense garage style demo with Billy's vocals buried deeper than normal in the mix.
- Frail and Bedazzled (Soundworks demo) – Nice to have. Slightly longer but overall similar version (albeit instrumental) to the original.
- Luna (apartment demo) – Must own. Lovely, and more sparse version than the original in pristine quality.
- Quiet (BBC Session) (Billy Corgan 2011 mix) – Must own. Wouldn't any high quality alternate version of the rocker be a must have? Absolutely.
- Moleasskiss (Soundworks demo) – Must own. Fine Siamese outtake and clearly shows the wide gap between Siamese-era demos and the work that went into the finished original album that was so clean you could eat off of it.
- Hello Kitty Kat (Soundworks demo) – Must own. Pumpkins lore rates this track higher than I do – great quality nonetheless and similar in style to the other outtakes presented here.
- Today (Broadway rehearsal demo) – Nice to have. Mostly an early demo version of the classic, but it's more interesting than enjoyable. Like why would anyone ever play this more than 3x when the original version should be in the Smithsonian?
- Never Let Me Down Again (BBC session) – Must own. Sexier, groovier track than nearly anything in this timeframe.
- Apathy's Last Kiss (Rough Mix) – Skip. Great track but similar to the version on Still Becoming Apart.
- Ache (Silverfuck/rehearsal demo) – Nice to have early demo version of Silverfuck. On the borderline of being a must have but not quite.
- U.S.A (Soundworks demo) – Must own. Sounds like more Gish to me but very high quality and high-driving instrumental demo.
- U.S.S.R. (Soundworks demo) – Nice to have. Brief, high quality below-average instrumental when compared to the other instrumentals on these reissues.
- Spaceboy (acoustic mix) – Nice to have. Acoustic mix with what appears to be the original vocal track. Nothing groundbreaking here on this classic and beautiful song.
- Rocket (rehearsal demo) – Must own. Nice early rehearsal in decent quality but the guitar melody hooks were already in place. Once again, demos like this truly showcase the shine of the original's album versions.
- Disarm (acoustic mix) – Same comments as above regarding Spaceboy.
- Soma (instrumental mix) – Nice to have. Instrumental track from the original. Reminds you how beautiful of a track this is and is somewhat a staple of the nursery-rhyme style melodies that Corgan incorporated in the first three Pumpkins albums.
DVD – August 16, 1993 at the Metro, Chicago – live performance
1. Rocket (Live At The Metro, Chicago, 8/14/93) [DVD]
2. Quiet (Live At The Metro, Chicago, 8/14/93) [DVD]
3. Today (Live At The Metro, Chicago, 8/14/93) [DVD]
4. Rhinoceros (Live At The Metro, Chicago, 8/14/93) [DVD]
5. Geek U.S.A. (Live At The Metro, Chicago, 8/14/93) [DVD]
6. Soma (Live At The Metro, Chicago, 8/14/93) [DVD]
7. I am one (Live At The Metro, Chicago, 8/14/93) [DVD]
8. Disarm (Live At The Metro, Chicago, 8/14/93) [DVD]
9. Spaceboy (Live At The Metro, Chicago, 8/14/93) [DVD]
10. Starla (Live At The Metro, Chicago, 8/14/93) [DVD]
11. Cherub rock (Live At The Metro, Chicago, 8/14/93) [DVD]
12. Bury me (Live At The Metro, Chicago, 8/14/93) [DVD]
13. Hummer (Live At The Metro, Chicago, 8/14/93) [DVD]
14. Siva (Live At The Metro, Chicago, 8/14/93) [DVD]
15. Mayonaise (Live At The Metro, Chicago, 8/14/93) [DVD]
16. Drown (Live At The Metro, Chicago, 8/14/93) [DVD]
17. Silverfuck (Live At The Metro, Chicago, 8/14/93) [DVD]
This is the kind of DVD fans should expect. Outstanding quality and captured during a pivotal time of the Pumpkins skyrocketing growth. Best yet, it's not stuck in the MTV-style editing of current times where there's 18 camera angles and each glance is only for two seconds or less. There's no distractions here. An extremely high energy hometown performance that includes a smiling, bouncing and jovial Corgan behind the mic and guitar for a ripping run through of every major early Pumpkins track in a show that runs just shy of 2 hours. The body-surfing Olympics taking place is a non-stop attraction as the crowd becomes as much a part of the show as the young band themselves. The DVD is simply an outstanding addition to this deluxe set. If there's a weakness to be found it's in Corgan's live voice, and thats true even today. His ability to maintain top notch vocals during high energy performances in which he's also playing lead guitar has never been his greatest thing. However, overall, this is a can't-miss performance and certainly worthy of the quality of these reissues. If this DVD doesn't satisfy the Siamese Dream deluxe reissue, what possibly could then other than 2 hours of studio footage recording the actual album?
CD1 – the original album
Gish, the final product, is not only the precursor two Pumpkins albums that followed – it probably exceeded even the expectations of Billy Corgan with the scope of its sound. That's because Corgan caught lightning in a bottle when he grouped up with Butch Vig and Jimmy Chamberlain. The Bermuda Triangle of Vig's keen ear for sonic perfection, matched with Chamberlain's thumping heartbeat on the drums and Corgan's growing mastery of both songwriting and guitar playing created the perfect storm. While that storm came into full fruition on Siamese Dream, Gish created a storm of interest that helped propel the Pumpkins into the stratosphere over the next five years. While Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie lifted the Pumpkins into the hearts of millions Gish has remained a remarkable album, even though it was clearly outdone by its predecessors.
The psychedelia of Gish separated it from Pearl Jam's Ten, Nirvana's Nevermind and every other band that emerged in the early 90's. While grunge dominated the early part of the decade many of the songs on Gish stepped outside of that stereotype . Songs like 'Snail', and 'Daydream' provided the Pumpkins with an early signature, that separation from everything else released in this gigantic era of change in rock music. Long gone were the glam hair bands of the 80's and now we had homeless-looking rockers from Seattle, Portland and Chicago tearing up the airwaves. This remastered version highlights how much Gish has dug its heels into that point in time and thatit holds up remarkably with a sound that is more timeless than something like PJ's Ten. Corgan and Vig had just scratched the surface of what they were capable of and Gish, despite not having any early commercial success, is not looked back upon with the credibility of anything else before 1995.
CD2 – unreleased material
- Starla (2011 mix) – Nice to have, spectacular quality but it's hard to decipher it from the original.
- Siva (Peel Session) – Nice to have and great quality mix from the Peel session. Not dramatically different from original.
- Honeyspider (Real Time Demo/2011 mix) – Must own and the 2011 mix brings it life even further.
- Hippy Trippy (Crush Music Box demo) – Must own.
- Snail (Live Radio performance) – Nice to have. Decent quality live radio performance with a muddy mix.
- Plume (2011 mix) – Nice to have. Perfect quality alternate version that is similar to the original.
- Bury Me (Real time demo/2011 mix) – Must own. Perfect quality again on this powerful demo version.
- Daydream (Old House Demo) – Must own. Dramatically different version in pristine quality.
- Tristessa (Sub Pop single/2011 mix) – Nice to have. Once again, another alternate version in near-perfect quality.
- Girl Named Sandoz (Peel Session) – Nice to have. Similar arrangement and sound to the original.
- Jesus is the Sun (Apartment demo) – Must own. Great quality outtake.
- Blue (Gish Session demo) – Must own. Acoustic-driven version in perfect quality and a little free Billy chatter at the beginning.
- Smiley (Gish Session demo) – Must own. Pristine.
- I Am One (Real Time demo/2011 mix) – Nice to have. Great quality – very similar to the original.
- Suffer (Apartment demo) – Must own. Significantly different version in outstanding quality.
- La Dolly vita (2011 mix) – Nice to have, but it's either similar or the same as the version on Pisces Iscariot.
- Pulseczar (Gish Session demo) – Must own. Dark, haunting track and an ideal inclusion here.
- Drown (Alternative guitar solo) – Must own. Still a classic track.
DVD – August 25, 1990 at the Metro, Chicago – live performance
1. I am one (Live at The Metro, Chicago, IL 8/25/90) [DVD]2. Snail (Live at The Metro, Chicago, IL 8/25/90) [DVD]3. Rhinoceros (Live at The Metro, Chicago, IL 8/25/90) [DVD]4. Bury Me (Live at The Metro, Chicago, IL 8/25/90) [DVD]5. Tristessa (Live at The Metro, Chicago, IL 8/25/90) [DVD]6. Window Paine (Live at The Metro, Chicago, IL 8/25/90) [DVD]7. Razor (Live at The Metro, Chicago, IL 8/25/90) [DVD]8. Sookie Sookie (Live at The Metro, Chicago, IL 8/25/90) [DVD]9. Godzilla (Live at The Metro, Chicago, IL 8/25/90) [DVD]10. Crush – Acoustic (Live at The Metro, Chicago, IL 8/25/90) [DVD]
A full, hometown performance highlighting the Gish album shot at the Metro in Chicago back in 1990. As with the DVD that accompanies the deluxe reissue above of Siamese Dream, this is perhaps the definitive show from the Pumpkins' Gish era. The audio quality exceeds the video, largely due to the fact the show was shot in a swash of blue and red lights. In addition, the source of the video doesn't appear to be a first generation or master copy. Nevertheless, to the upper 2% or 3% of Pumpkins fans, this DVD will warrant repeated viewings. For the other 97% it's a one-time showing in most instances.
The performance itself shows the vigor at which the Pumpkins shows had evolved into such a powerful live setting. Aside from the outstanding tracks, the band was a flourish of eye candy between D'arcy's long blond locks, Iha's odd uniqueness (does any other rock star really look like him?), the veins in Chamberlain's biceps – and of course the exuberant Corgan hiding often behind the classic 1990 bushel of hair. Clearly, their live show was one of huge underground hype in Chicago early on and their reputation for tearing up a club was just forming. This show captures that well just as the Smashing Pumpkins firestorm was beginning to take shape.
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