Pumpkins, and the Smashing Thereof

You probably don't need to be told to listen to the Smashing Pumpkins. If you were the right age in the mid-nineties and don't own Siamese Dream and/or Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, I have to question why you are even reading a music blog. Simply put, they are two of the best rock albums of (at least) the 1990s, if not all time. But that isn't what this post is about.

The recent news of a Smashing Pumpkins reunion (albeit one that only definitely includes Billy Corgan and Jimmy Chamberlain, with D'arcy's participation highly unlikely, James Iha's fairly unlikely, and even Melissa auf der Maur a 'maybe') got me thinking about the band again. I have something of a unique perspective on them, as I got into modern rock later than many of my peers. By the time I started listening to rock radio, Mellon Collie was more or less in its death throes as far as singles were concerned.

As such, the first Pumpkins album I got to experience brand new was 1998's oft-slandered Adore. In case you've forgotten, when that album came out, people HATED it. Passionately. In some sense, it's not hard to see why -- it almost could not sound less like the band's previous output. I always liked it though, and a recent objective listen nearly a decade after its release (Christ I'm getting old) reaffirmed my belief that it failed to establish itself as a classic moreso because of absurdly high expectations and one incredibly poor single choice ("Daphne Descends," after "Perfect") than on its merits.

It's not that it's a bad song, really. In fact, if an up and coming indie band had done this in 1998, blending Depeche Mode dance-pop influences with rock, part of me thinks we would all be hailing it as a revolutionary classic. Unfortunately, the Pumpkins were already mainstream enough that the independent press had turned on them at this point, and "Daphne Descends" was otherwise too 1983 for 1998.

If it had been up to me, the first song appended to this post, "To Sheila," with its quiet simplicity and beautiful melody, would have been the third single, rather than the last, after everyone had stopped caring. Always was, and still is, one of my favorite Pumpkins songs.

The second song I've included here is "For Martha." This probably never would have cut it as a single due to its length, but it's also probably the best track on the album. The song was written for Corgan's mother, who died during the making of the record, and in my opinion, it is one of the best lyrics about coming to terms with loss ever written.

Because the official Smashing Pumpkins site effectively ceased to exist for awhile when Corgan formed Zwan (another underrated project of his that I will probably blog about another time), I have no idea what, if any, studio material was available for free download. Therefore, these two tracks are live versions from the Tower Theater show in Upper Darby PA on 7.28.1998, recorded for the now-defunct Philadelphia radio station WPLY 100.3 (Y100). I recall taping this off the radio at the time it happened and playing the tape til it was nearly worn out. Fortunately, a pre-broadcast version leaked out recently (presumably in the aftermath of Y100's demise), and that is the source of these tracks.

At one point, I considered posting more tracks from this particular show, but many of the other songs were radically rearranged in the live setting, which would sort of defeat the purpose of this post as a defense of Adore. Even "To Sheila" is more rocked out here than on the record, but it's not a huge leap from one to the other. Both tracks are also extended significantly compared to the studio versions.

Smashing Pumpkins - To Sheila (Live)

Smashing Pumpkins - For Martha (Live)

Bonus Round:

Smashing Pumpkins - Satur9 (from the internet-only free album Machina II: Friends and Enemies of Modern Music) <--- Note that this is external and you need to click through it, despite the filename.

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