photo & text by nacrowe
as ive written about before, its been such a colossal bummer watching SMASHING PUMPKINS frontman BILLY CORGAN degenerate in real time over the past decade from a generational talent, cultural force and ALTERNATIVE ROCK elder statesman into a PATHETIC salivating JOE ROGAN and ALEX JONES BOOTLICKER as well as a REACTIONARY, FAR-RIGHT MAGA QUISLING. it really is PANIFUL because his music meant so much to me and so many other people, especially what is arguably considered his greatest achievement, the imaginative and expansive double-album MELLON COLLIE AND THE INFINITE SADNESS (VIRGIN, 1995).
i first heard this album through a new classmate of mine shortly after my move to NIGERIA in 6th grade in late 1995. i remember initially being totally enraptured by the SWIRLING, MAJESTIC fuzzed-out bliss of tracks like "THRU THE EYES OF RUBY," "JELLYBELLY," "TALES OF A SCORCHED EARTH," "WHERE BOYS FEAR TO TREAD," "BODIES" and "AN ODE TO NO ONE." jesus those songs still hold up. CORGAN definitely had a knack for taking a song with intense dynamics and then just pushing it another level or two to the point where the listener is just begging to be left off the rollercoaster. that being said, there are also several melodic mid-tempo songs like "ZERO," "LOVE," "HERE IS NO WHY" and "BULLET WITH BUTTERFLY WINGS" that showcase an almost NEW WAVE level of PLAYFUL tempo dynamics and integration of IDIOSYNCRATIC sonic textures. i believe CORGAN is a genius at creating a compelling sense of atmosphere and texture on the canvas of those less frantic, mid-tempo songs.
but where CORGAN vary much shines is in his ballad songwriting. MELLON COLLIE plays with this idea of MEMORY and NOSTALGIA and a geography that is both real and imagined. i almost think of this album as a place one visits from time to time and becomes reacquainted again with the furniture and the tactile placement of all the decorations. sonically it just has a TRANSFORMATIVE sense of PRESENCE that is unique unto itself and none more so than on ballads like "THIRTY-THREE," "CUPID DE LOCKE," "1979," "TONIGHT, TONIGHT," "PORCELINA OF THE VAST OCEANS" and my personal favorite "BY STARLIGHT." an ex-girlfriend of mine who passed away from OVARIAN CANCER in her 20s when i was in college was obsessed with the later, in fact it was integrated into her personal e-mail address at the time. i know CORGAN has had conflict and much trepidation regarding his voice, much like JIMI HENDRIX, JOHN LENNON and JAMES HETFIELD before him, but in his ballads his unique vocal affectations pays dividends in how it conveys a naked sense of emotional VULNERABILITY and even HOPE.
and i always felt strongly that this sense of VULNERABILITY in his vocals and his song-craft was his calling card as a musician, vocalist and ultimately a songwriter. the idea that those qualities for which i lionized him have metastasized into such a SPITEFUL, SELF-AGGRANDIZING, SOLIPSISTIC, FALSELY-AGGRIEVED MAN-CHILD is beyond DISORIENTATING and DISAPPOINTING. its SAD. i very much wish now he would just go away instead of trying to recapture the past with his current cash-in version of THE SMASHING PUMPKINS.
MELLON COLLIE AND THE INFINITE SADNESS is a landmark release by a great band, but like past achievements by ERIC CLAPTON or VAN MORRISON, i tend to look elsewhere these days out of sheer disappointment into the person CORGAN became.