Friday, September 24, 2010

I'd Love to Turn You On #18: The Smashing Pumpkins - Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness

In October of 1995 I had just turned fourteen and the Smashing Pumpkins were releasing their third studio album called Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. While I didn't know it at the time, this album was going to become the soundtrack to my teenage life and help shape the way I viewed the world.

“Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness is a loose concept album, with the songs intended to hang together conceptually as a symbol of the cycle of life and death. (Front man) Billy Corgan has said that the album is based on "the human condition of mortal sorrow"” –

The ambition behind Mellon Collie was so vast that nearly a third of the original work didn't even make it to the final release. Billy Corgan described the album as “The Wall for Generation X,” at the time of development. While the album lacked the consistency and linearity of The Wall, it made up for it in clever conveyance of raw emotion. The entire album is a highly contrasted, almost manic at times, ride through Corgan's attempt to write for people 14 to 24 years old. Corgan stated he was hoping "to sum up all the things I felt as a youth but was never able to voice articulately” and "I'm waving goodbye to me in the rear view mirror, tying a knot around my youth and putting it under the bed."
This album followed two consistent, alt-rock releases from the Pumpkins and a lot of drama that nearly split up the band. Luckily, this recording process incorporated two different joined studios in which the band was able to pull together, with all members eventually contributing, not only lyrically and compositionally but also vocally, in “Farewell and Goodnight” where every member sings in turn. The album was also a departure from their usual alt-rock sound in part because it was so vast. The album incorporated classical piano, synthesizers, MIDI samples, drum loops, a live orchestra, and even salt shakers and scissors in “Cupid de Locke.” All of the guitars were also tuned down a half-step to give the album a lower feeling throughout. The album was so well received that it ended up getting seven Grammy nominations that year as well.

Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness was the pinnacle soundtrack to my entire teenage existence. It was always blaring in my room, on my headphones or in my car. Everyone has their favorite album that they can recite by heart, in entirety, and this album is mine. The sheer intensity the album conveyed through Corgan's lyrics and compositions is an emotional roller coaster ride displayed with fury at times and with calm, poetic beauty at others. The ability Corgan had to communicate raw emotion - be it joy, unrequited love, helplessness or sheer rage - connected with me at a time when all of those scary and new emotions and situations were manifesting themselves in my own life. This album, more than any other, helped me identify my darkest and brightest times by giving me a catalyst for expression when I needed it most. It's a stand-alone album, which for me has stood the test of time. It's the one album that I can and have gone back to for fifteen years now and can always pull something new from or feel good listening to.

I find it hard to explain my love for my favorite album with out writing a book, and I am only allotted a page here, so I recommend you check it out yourself!
By Chris Berstler

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