Review by Jeff Becker from The Way That He Sings
Other Smashing Pumpkins reviews:
Article on the brief Machina 2 sale last year on eBay
Billy Corgan’s magnum opus.
“Faster than the speed of sound. Faster than we thought we’d go. Beneath the sound of hope.” from ‘1979’
The overall release of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness is scored a 9.5/10
CD1 and CD2 – The original double album remastered
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 Collie was 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
CD 3 MORNING TEA
- Tonight, Tonight (Strings Alone Mix) – Nice to have. If this were from anything less than a classic song it would be a Skip.
- Methusela (Sadlands Demo) – Must own. And as with most of the Sadlands Demos, it’s a rather remarkable addition to what would have been a suitable triple album originally.
- X.Y.U. (Take 11) – Nice to have. A good mix of the powerful track but not a significant addition to the original version.
- Zero (Synth Mix) – Nice to have. But again, not a significant addition here to the original.
- Feelium (Sadlands Demo) – Must own. Tracks like this and “Ascending Guitars” are where this deluxe set shows its true teeth!
- Autumn Nocturne (Sadlands Demo) – Must own. Another strong fidelity demo of a song that sounds nothing like anything else on the original album.
- Beautiful (Loop Version) – Must own. A dramatically different version of one of the album’s odd love songs.
- Ugly (Sadlands Demo) – Must own. The Sadlands Demos should have just had their own dedicated CD in this release. They’re that good. That epic.
- Ascending Guitars (Sadlands Demo) – Must own and phenomenal. This writer’s favorite track on this disc.
- By Starlight (Flood Rough) – Nice to have. Rough mix, as noted, but simply OK.
- Medellia Of The Gray Skies (Take 1) – Nice to have. Wonderful track but not too far away from its original beauty.
- Lover (Arrangement 1 Demo) – Nice to have. A rough version of a below-average Iha track.
- Thru The Eyes Of Ruby (Take 7) – Nice to have. A quality, slightly different instrumental version of a great track.
- In The Arms Of Sleep (Early Live Demo) – Must own. Wonderful quality single-take.
- Lily (My One And Only) (Sadlands Demo) – Must own. Another quality single-take on full acoustic by Corgan.
- 1979 (Sadlands Demo) – Must own. In my opinion, the track that changed it all for the Pumpkins. It lifted them above potential niche that repeating Siamese Dream would have stuck them in. This version is different enough to be a welcomed inclusion.
- Glamey Glamey (Sadlands Demo) – Must own. This is why reissues have true value. Powerful instrumental.
- Meladori Magpie (2012 version) – Nice to have. Not too far off from the original to be mandatory.
- Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness (Home Piano Version) – Skip. A beautiful track on the original album and this one adds very tiny value.
- Galapogos (Instrumental/Sadlands Demo) – Must own. Beautiful sounding track that is dramatically different from the original.
- To Forgive (Sadlands Demo) – Must own. Sound quality alone on the opening chords of Corgan’s acoustic guitar blows this out of the water – sounding better than the original in fact.
CD 4 HIGH TEA
- Bullet With Butterfly Wings (Sadlands Demo) – Must own. Similar vocal arrangement to the original but an acoustic gem of a version!
- Set The Ray To Jerry (Vocal Rough) – Nice to have. Similar to original in mix and sound.
- Thirty-Three (Sadlands Demo) – Must own. Similar vocal track but quite a bit different instrumental track.
- Cupid De Locke (BT 2012 Mix) – Must own. Another great sound quality, alternate version – different enough to warrant a listen away from the original.
- Porcelina Of The Vast Ocean (Live Studio Rough) – Nice to have. Crisp, early demo version with a raw vocal track.
- Jellybelly (Instrumental/Pit Mix 3) – Nice to have. Very similar to original in feel.
- The Aeroplane Flies High (Turns Left, Looks Right) – Nice to have. Again, very similar to original in feel.
- Jupiter’s Lament (Barbershop Version) – Nice to have. A slightly different feel to this.
- Bagpipes Drone (Sadlands Demo) – Must own. More 1995 guitar work from Corgan. Very worthwhile.
- Tonight, Tonight (Band Version Only, No Strings) – Must own. A new way of looking at an obvious classic.
- Knuckles (Studio Outtake) – Must own. Another track that makes the Mellon Collie era sound even more eclectic than it already is.
- Pennies (2012 remaster) – Skip. Great, great song but very similar to original.
- Here Is No Why (Pumpkinland Demo) – Nice to have. Another not-so-different version than the original.
- Blast (Fuzz Version) – Must own. Another instrumental gem in prime quality.
- Towers Of Rabble (Live) – Must own. Great addition of an unreleased live track in near-perfect quality.
- Rotten Apples – Nice to have. Perfect quality but very similar to the original.
- Fun Time (Sadlands Demo) – Must own. Let’s make a rule: Sadlands = Must have!
- Thru The Eyes Of Ruby (Acoustic Version) – Must have. Alternate versions of previously released material need to be just like this.
- Chinoise (Sadlands Demo) – Must own. Beautiful acoustic piano demo track.
- Speed – Must have. Another odd how-did-this-get-excluded from the original album. Wonderful track.
CD 5 SPECIAL TEA
- Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness (Nighttime Version 1) – Must own. Fairly stunning alternate guitar version. It’s a gem of this collection and something that would have worked equally well on the original release. Sounds like a Mojave 3 song.
- Galapogos (Sadlands Demo) – Must own. It’s a Sadlands demo and these demos are dominating this reissue, as they should.
- Cherry (BT 2012 Mix) – Nice to have. Different but yet very similar to the original.
- Love (Flood Rough) – Nice to have. The greatest Pumpkins song ever on headphones, just a slightly altered, early version here.
- New Waver (Sadlands Demo) – Must own. Another short, sonic instrumental blast.
- Fuck You (An Ode To No One) (Production Master Rough) – Nice to have. Top sound quality but as with most of these alternate versions – quite similar to the original.
- Isolation (BT 2012 Mix) – Must own. Perfect-sounding remake of the Joy Division track.
- Transformer (Early Mix) – Nice to have. Similar to the original in sound.
- Dizzle (Sadlands Demo) – Must own. More wonderful material from the Sadlands demos, even if many of them are instrumentals.
- Goodnight (Basic Vocal Rough) – Must own. Very rough early mix in excellent sound quality. Out of tune vocals but a great look at an early version.
- Eye (Soundworks Demo) – Must own. Another very different, early look at one of the hidden gems from their official, but obscure piece of their catalog.
- Blank (Sadlands Demo) – Must own. Quite stunning version in prime sound.
- Beautiful (Instrumental-Middle 8) – Must own. Wonderful guitar instrumental of one of Mellon Collie’s final, remarkable tracks in great fidelity.
- My Blue Heaven (BT 2012 Mix) – Nice to have. Very similar to the original.
- One And Two – Must own. Typical, delicate slow gem from Iha. Should have been on the album.
- Zoom (7 ips) – Must own. One of many above-average instrumentals in top quality.
- Pastichio Medley (Reversed Extras) – Skip. Adds no value.
- Marquis In Spades (BT 2012 Mix) – Nice to have. Very similar to the original.
- Tales Of A Scorched Earth (Instrumental/Pit Mix 3) – Skip. Adds no value to me.
- Tonite Reprise (Version 1) – Must own. High fidelity mix of the standout track.
- Wishing You Were Real (Home Demo) – Nice to have only because it’s an original, unreleased track. Sound quality is one of the worst.
- Thru the Eyes of Ruby (Pit Mix 3) – Skip.
- Phang (Sadlands demo) – Must own. Outstanding, pounding and strongly melodic guitar finale.
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.