THE SMASHING PUMPKINS

Heavy Alternative Rock • United States
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The Smashing Pumpkins are an American alternative rock/grunge band from Chicago, Illinois, formed in 1988. Formed by frontman Billy Corgan (lead vocals, lead guitar) and James Iha (rhythm guitar), the band has included Jimmy Chamberlin (drums), D'arcy Wretzky (bass guitar), Melissa Auf der Maur (bass guitar), and currently includes Mike Byrne (drums), Nicole Fiorentino (bass guitar, backing vocals), and Jeff Schroeder (rhythm guitar) among its membership.

Disavowing the punk rock roots of many of their alt-rock contemporaries, the Pumpkins have a diverse, densely layered, and guitar-heavy sound, containing elements of gothic rock, grunge, heavy metal, dream pop, psychedelic rock, progressive rock, shoegaze style production, and, in later recordings, electronica. Frontman Billy Corgan is the group's primary songwriter—his grand musical ambitions and cathartic lyrics have shaped the band's albums and songs, which have been described as "anguished, bruised reports from Billy Corgan's nightmare-land".

The Smashing Pumpkins broke into the musical mainstream with their
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Mellon Collie & The Infinite Sadness [4 LP]Mellon Collie & The Infinite Sadness [4 LP]
Remastered
Virgin Records 2012
$77.80
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SHINY AND OH SO BRIGHT, VOL. 1 / NO PAST. NO FUTURE. NO SUN.SHINY AND OH SO BRIGHT, VOL. 1 / NO PAST. NO FUTURE. NO SUN.
Napalm Records 2018
$8.93
$5.58 (used)
Siamese DreamSiamese Dream
Remastered
Virgin Records 2011
$10.05
$12.74 (used)
Gish [LP]Gish [LP]
Virgin 2011
$17.05
$20.31 (used)
AdoreAdore
Virgin 1998
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$1.29 (used)
Pisces IscariotPisces Iscariot
Virgin 2012
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Aeroplane Flies High [5 LP]Aeroplane Flies High [5 LP]
Box set
Virgin 2013
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$189.58 (used)
Machina / The Machine Of GodMachina / The Machine Of God
Virgin 2000
$10.72
$1.67 (used)
Monuments To An ElegyMonuments To An Elegy
BMG Rights Management 2014
$5.99
$3.57 (used)
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THE SMASHING PUMPKINS Discography

THE SMASHING PUMPKINS albums / top albums

THE SMASHING PUMPKINS Gish album cover 3.96 | 5 ratings
Gish
Heavy Alternative Rock 1991
THE SMASHING PUMPKINS Siamese Dream album cover 4.41 | 15 ratings
Siamese Dream
Heavy Alternative Rock 1993
THE SMASHING PUMPKINS Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness album cover 4.57 | 24 ratings
Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness
Heavy Alternative Rock 1995
THE SMASHING PUMPKINS Adore album cover 3.75 | 5 ratings
Adore
Heavy Alternative Rock 1998
THE SMASHING PUMPKINS Machina/The Machines Of God album cover 4.14 | 5 ratings
Machina/The Machines Of God
Heavy Alternative Rock 2000
THE SMASHING PUMPKINS Machina II/The Friends & Enemies of Modern Music album cover 3.83 | 3 ratings
Machina II/The Friends & Enemies of Modern Music
Heavy Alternative Rock 2000
THE SMASHING PUMPKINS Zeitgeist album cover 3.35 | 4 ratings
Zeitgeist
Heavy Alternative Rock 2007
THE SMASHING PUMPKINS Oceania album cover 3.85 | 4 ratings
Oceania
Heavy Alternative Rock 2012
THE SMASHING PUMPKINS Monuments to an Elegy album cover 4.00 | 1 ratings
Monuments to an Elegy
Heavy Alternative Rock 2014

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THE SMASHING PUMPKINS Reviews

THE SMASHING PUMPKINS Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness

Album · 1995 · Heavy Alternative Rock
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
Necrotica
One of the best traits Billy Corgan has always had as a songwriter is that he’s incredibly skilled at making mountains out of molehills. Much like Bruce Springsteen, he has the ability to take the mundane and transform it into the most grand and sweeping thing you’ve ever heard. Back in the 90s, he took the genre of alternative rock and injected it with a sense of artistry and grace that immediately set The Smashing Pumpkins apart from the majority of their grungy, down-to-earth peers. And let’s be clear here: it’s not like the band were strangers to grunge or alternative metal themselves. Songs like “Cherub Rock,” “Zero,” and “Quiet” are all infused with a murky, dirty tone and downtuned guitar work that act as a piledriver to the ears. However, as pretentious as Corgan might have been (let’s be fair here, he was… and still is), he knew that adding a heightened level of grandeur to his chosen genre would make his band stand out. Gish and Siamese Dream were already building up to the peak of this evolution, especially the latter which would become known as a classic in its own right. And even through the group’s inner turmoil, the classic lineup remained (Billy Corgan, Jimmy Chamberlain, James Iha, and D’arcy Wretzky) to cut their second - and arguably their final - classic. But back then, was anybody really prepared for a full-blown 2-hour double disc by these guys?

I’d imagine not. Even as double albums go, 2 straight hours is a lot to ask of someone’s time - especially when hearing Billy Corgan’s nasally whine throughout that duration. So it’s quite astonishing, then, that nearly every moment has an important place in Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. Granted, it should probably go without saying that - with a duration as long as this - there’s really no stone left unturned. Alternative rock, progressive rock, symphonic rock, art rock, shoegaze, psychedelia, grunge, and heavy metal are all fairly represented at different times, altogether sculpting one of the most eclectic works of the 90s. But the artistic growth of the band (or more specifically, Billy Corgan, considering he wrote the vast majority of the record) doesn’t stop there. Much like a play or a film laced with intermissions, Mellon Collie is separated by two different acts: Dawn to Dusk and Twilight to Starlight. A number of songs play into this concept as well, such as “We Only Come Out at Night” naturally appearing in the second disc to represent the twilight or the beautiful piano-driven opening title track lifting the figurative curtains to signify the coming of dawn. As for the lyrics themselves, each song acts as a specific little vignette or a small puzzle piece; this isn’t really a concept album in the traditional sense (there’s no actual arc or storyline), but rather a grand jigsaw puzzle composed of miniature stories that correlate in some way to their respective discs.

As such, the relationship between tension and release is one of the biggest draws of Mellon Collie. Because of the wildly varying dynamics, the album constantly goes back and forth with its bipolar nature like a seesaw as it traverses through every facet of the band’s experimental tendencies. “Porcelina of the Vast Oceans” and “Thru the Eyes of Ruby” like to swell and build their dynamics to satisfying conclusions in a progressive rock fashion, while tunes like “Tales of a Scorched Earth” and “X.Y.U.” present the band in its ugliest form with pummeling metal riffs and furious blasts of guitar feedback. Likewise, there are plenty of delicate ballads that help mitigate the intensity of the propulsive rockers, as one might expect on such a long-winded journey. Notably, two of these are the only songs not written by Billy Corgan himself: guitarist James Iha wrote the album’s closers, “Take Me Down” and “Farewell and Goodnight,” both of which close out their respective sides in a serene manner. But that’s not to say they’re the best ballads on offer; in my mind, the gorgeously layered dream pop number “By Starlight” easily wins in that regard. “Cupid De Locke” is another highlight, using unorthodox percussion in the form of saltshakers to propel its easygoing rhythms and flighty tempo. As I mentioned before, tension and release is what makes Mellon Collie so consistently fun to listen to. It’s all about the different yins and yangs of volume and style, all countering each other in fresh new ways. If you want the best showing of this, listen to “X.Y.U.” and “We Only Come Out at Night,” which play back-to-back and yet contrast each other in every way. The former is a brutal Melvins-esque jab of sludgy alternative metal, and the latter is a quaint ballad with a light swing rhythm. How the latter follows up the former so well, I’ll never know.

I’ll be completely blunt about this: I’m not normally a fan of double albums. With so much content to pack into one recording, it almost seems like a guarantee that you’ll encounter something that should have stayed on the cutting room floor. It’s a problem that’s plagued quite a few albums in the past, including (in my opinion, at least) The Beatles’ self-titled White Album and Genesis’ The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. This is the way I see things: if you’re going to stuff your record with more than one disc full of material, you’d better make sure to bring your A-game and take special care in every track to make sure it has a purpose. There might be a few weaker cuts on Mellon Collie (“Love” and “Beautiful” come to mind), but there was never a time that I thought they actually crippled the album in any severe way. Considering this is a 28-track record with 121 minutes to its runtime, it’s insane to think that even the throwaways are still as well-written as they are. If you gave “Love” and “Beautiful” to an album from a lower-tier alternative rock band from that era, they might have been considered highlights; think about that.

There was once a time when I thought Siamese Dream was The Smashing Pumpkins’ true peak, with Mellon Collie at a close second. However, that opinion has been slowly reversing with the passage of time. The more time I’ve given this album to grow and cultivate in my eardrums, the more its phenomenal consistency and emotional potency have also grown. Moreover, Mellon Collie just feels important. Alternative rock needed something this grandiose and diverse, whether the practitioners or listeners of the genre wanted to dispute that or not. Such a fully-realized masterwork only comes around once in a lifetime, and you’d be wise to lend an ear to its timeless tunes if you haven’t already.

THE SMASHING PUMPKINS Siamese Dream

Album · 1993 · Heavy Alternative Rock
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Necrotica
"Adventurous." What is your definition of that word when it comes to music? Many people will tell you that the word defines an act that breaks boundaries, one that bends genres in unusual ways, one that uses different techniques from who's perceived as average. But I'd like to note that there's another way the word can be described, which is in a more literal sense. "Adventurous," to me, means that you're literally going on an adventure, a musical trip of sorts. Whether they be realistic or surrealistic, albums that feel more like journeys or complete experiences than just a collection of tracks often end up being some of the most rewarding records. Every track flows well into the next, everything is strung together nicely, and atmosphere often takes increased precedence. And let's be real here: early 90s alternative rock produced many great artists, but often relied less on elaborate or ornate musical techniques or sounds because of how it commonly preferred a more simplistic approach. What I'm getting at is that we needed a band like The Smashing Pumpkins to get big when they did.

Fresh off the surprise success of their debut Gish, The Smashing Pumpkins were facing a crushing amount of pressure from the press, already being labeled as the next big thing to happen to alternative rock. This only added to the multitude of internal tensions the entire group were already facing, including frontman Billy Corgan's weight gain and writer's block, the breakup of bassist D'arcy Wretzky and guitarist James Iha, and drummer Jimmy Chamberlain's drug problems. Everything was crashing down during the band's most important recording session, in a situation almost akin to Fleetwood Mac's Rumours, but luckily, Billy Corgan did the exact same thing the members of that group dealt with the problems: looking inward. He suffered a nervous breakdown and even planned to kill himself during the time of recording Siamese Dream, and this led to many more lyrical and musical themes regarding insecurities and personal issues he dealt with, both in his childhood and in the present day. What it led to was one of the most breathtaking albums of all time, not just in alternative rock music but any kind of music.

Regarding what I said earlier about certain adventurous albums being akin to literal musical adventures, Siamese Dream is an absolutely prime example of this. It's very much a journey through Billy Corgan's personal life, and his songwriting is always sure to reflect this fact beautifully. What we've got here is a mish-mash of alternative rock, progressive rock, grunge, dream pop, and heavy metal sounds coming together cohesively with a few common atmospheres prevalent throughout the entire record. The best word I can use to describe the vibe as a whole is "warm"; this is an experience that's loaded with feelings of summer nostalgia because of its layered and fuzzy guitar sounds and Billy Corgan's sentimental vocals. Certainly, during songs like "Cherub Rock," "Geek U.S.A." and the ironically titled "Quiet," there's plenty of heavy aggression to be had here as well; however, it's always restrained just enough that it doesn't deviate too far from the album's common themes and overall sound. Each song's style perfectly fits the mood and lyrics it contains: "Disarm" is probably the best example, being a beautifully melancholic and primarily acoustic (and symphonic) ballad that has Corgan singing about the more negative aspects of his childhood and relationship with his parents. He might present himself as quite an arrogant individual on various news sites and interviews, but I don't think many people can deny that this is one of the most vulnerable vocal tracks ever put to a record.

What also really propels Siamese Dream above many of the albums of its day is how it handles its influences. There's a ton of 70s classic rock and dream pop that people can pick out on this record, especially from bands such as Queen and My Bloody Valentine, but once again, it's the blend of the old and the new that makes it all so enthralling. Look at a song like "Soma;" it is, for the most part, a very dreamlike alternative rock ballad whose sprawling motifs quite likely influenced Radiohead's late-90s work. But then it throws a wrench in the works by including an unbelievably gorgeous moment of guitar layering in the middle that recalls Queen guitarist Brian May's operatic harmonies. It doesn't last very long, but it somehow blends perfectly with the band's 90s sound and really makes a lasting impression long after the song is over. This is also reflected in the Mellotron playing in the ballad "Spaceboy," which has a sound similar to 70s progressive rock acts while skillfully retaining the characteristics of its own era, such as the more alternative and melancholic opening guitar lines. However, the beauty of it all is that Siamese Dream sounds like it could have been released today and still be relevant... THAT'S the sign of a truly timeless record. There's nothing here that sounds like a product of its time, despite the contemporary 90s influences and classic 70s/80s influences throughout the experience.

Finally, since Billy Corgan gets mentioned so much, I'd like to speak of the other musicians before I wrap things up; this is, by far, the best instrumental work that The Smashing Pumpkins have had. While Corgan helped D'arcy Wretzky with recording many of the bass lines on this album, James Iha's guitar work accompanies Corgan's playing very well and Jimmy Chamberlain is just a fucking monster on this thing. "Geek U.S.A." in particular is commonly cited to have some of the best drumming in rock history, and for good reason. In the end, what makes Siamese Dream work so wonderfully is that the band made the best of their darkest hour. They could have crashed and burned, crumbling under the pressure of hype and personal issues, but they ended up making these problems lyrical concepts and making music out of them. But the music that accompanies it is what's especially impressive, and the very thing that made this album the classic it is to this day. It's emotional, it's instrumentally proficient, it's personal, it's influential, it's a cornerstone of rock music, and it's one of the best albums ever made. Period.

(Originally published on Sputnikmusic)

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