Thursday, August 28, 2014 · 11:19 a.m.

Let's Talk Music!: A weekly album breakdown from Sean Phipps

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Every week, I’ll share an album I’ve been listening to. Feel free to list your favorite recent releases in the comments below. 

 Tweet your current favorite albums to @SeanMPhipps or email them to seanphippster@gmail.com.

Smashing Pumpkins, "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (Deluxe)"
Order the albumhere.

In brief:
Originally released in October of 1995, "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness" earned nominations for seven Grammys, including Album of the Year and Record of the Year. The two-disc album features different sounds with nearly all of the songs being written by lead singer Billy Corgan. This reissue features the original two discs with an additional three discs (64 tracks) of bonus material—demo recordings, acoustic versions, live versions and various mixes. 

The Smashing Pumpkins performing in 1996

What the critics think:
The original release in 1995 garnered generally positive reviews from critics across the board. This 2012 reissue/deluxe release is considered “a jaw-dropping collection of previously unreleased recordings, rarities and various other goodies in a variety of formats,” according to AntiQuiet. In addition to the sprawling collection of “goodies,” the music also “comes in a velvet disc holder inside a 12-by-12-inch box with reimagined cover art," along with two books featuring liner notes, lyrics and collages, not to mention (yes) a "decoupage kit for creating your own scenes from the 'Mellon Collie' universe," says Pitchfork. The website gives the album huge accolades with a 9.3, which is rare for Pitchfork. The AVClub calls "Mellon Collie" “the defining opus of alternative rock ... which captured the post-grunge zeitgeist more completely than any other record.” But they are less impressed with the reissue, saying, “its magnetic-seal lift-top box [is] brimming with every superfluity and gimmick Corgan could cram in: two books of notes and lyrics, six discs tucked into velvet, and, essential to the crafts-inclined fan, a decoupage kit of expanded album art.” SLANT  gives the reissue “5 stars,” saying, “it's safe to assume that few other bands have ever produced such an embarrassment of riches in such a short amount of time. The songs from the 'Mellon Collie' sessions speak not only to the quality of that abundance, but also to The Smashing Pumpkins' status as some of the most creative and successful purveyors of sensitive but cerebral art rock.”

What I think:
These songs, this band, were so important to me in 1995. I was in the seventh grade and going through a fairly dark period of several stepfathers and moves. There weren’t a lot of friends, and we were planning yet another move when this album came out. I remember sitting in my bedroom, wondering how music could be so beautiful and then so heavy and angry. I’d never heard an opening seven songs set on an album like this. You open with the gorgeous solo piano of the title track through “Tonight, Tonight”  and into rockers “Jellybelly” and “Zero”. Follow that with “Here Is No Why” and THE anthem of my middle school years, “Bullet with Butterfly Wings.” There is no shame in music that helped you grow as a person. As I grew older, The Smashing Pumpkins were no longer on my radar. But going back and listening to this remaster, I realize now how important they were to me and millions of other kids my age. These were our songs. Even deeper cuts like “Muzzle”  and “Stumbleine” bring back memories of solitude spent in my bedroom. The best song on the album is “1979” with an incredible riff, which, like the “zipper blues,” I’ll never be able to shake.  The reissue of "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness" is a well put together trip down nostalgia lane. There are subtle differences in the sound between the original and reissue (and I’ve read this was intentional). The lows are a little softer, making the heavier, distorted songs a little more intelligible. This is incredible stuff.

You can contact Sean Phipps via email and Twitter with comments and questions. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.

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