When Billy Corgan announced the Smashing Pumpkins third album, Melon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, he said it would be akin to Pink Floyd’s The Wall — but for his generation. From what fans of Pink Floyd have told me, he did not succeed, and I have to believe them since I’m not into Pink Floyd — at all. I’ve listened to them, I get why they’re loved, and maybe it’s just because I’ve never dropped acid in a dark room and listened to them (it’s probably definitely because I’ve never dropped acid in a dark room and listened to them), but they just don’t do it for me, momma. So, what am I even blathering about? I’m not trying to shit on Pink Floyd — I’m just saying the Smashing Pumpkins are amazing for doing their own thing.
It’s been 20 years since the release of Melon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. That is a long fucking time. For comparison, if I were writing this in 1995, you would be reading a review of an album turning 20 then, and in ’95 that might be Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks or Brian Eno’s Another Green World. Which in the case of Another Green World means I listen to a 40-year-old album almost every day. (I keep digressing, I know, but Brian Eno is part of my music holy trinity – Eno-Bowie-Iggy.)
Back to Billy Corgan. While the Smashing Pumpkins have always been loved, Corgan has also been considered a bit of a megalomaniac. But I mean, don’t you have to be? What frontman / frontwoman isn’t? Cause as much as everyone loves James Iha and as talented as his is, no one was going to blame him if Siamese Dream turned out terrible. Anyway, Melon Collie and the Infinite Sadness came out, was nominated for some Grammies, went Diamond (which is Platinum 10x), and critics said the only problem with it was Corgan’s inability to get out of his own way.
So, after 20 years, what are we left with? Well, an album that still feels new and different. The video for “Tonight, Tonight,” which was the weirdest thing I had ever seen the first time I saw it on MTV. And understanding that my belief that the world kind of sucks was not just in my head — seeing as it was, in fact, a vampire in “Bullet with Butterfly Wings.” And I’m not sure anything will ever compare to the music video for “1979.” The second I saw it I knew I wanted to get a car, go to the suburbs, drive to a convenience store, and bowl with forties. In other words, I knew what my path in life would be.
Twenty years on, Melon Collie and the Infinite Sadness still resonates as it did back in the ’90s. It doesn’t feel hackneyed; you aren’t embarrassed that you once liked it, no matter what Billy Corgan does today. It is impossible to talk about rock in the ’90s without mentioning it, and mentioning it as one of the best releases of the decade. It is a timeless classic concept album, which exists in a decadently beautiful world of depression, anger, and angst.
Review by Timothy White. Follow him on Twitter @TipToTheHip.