The Smashing Pumpkins was my favorite band in high school, and when I say “favorite band,” I mean I had over seventy SP CDs, including singles, bootlegs, and albums. This was right before Napster (I think? I’m so old that who really knows anymore…) so I had to hunt for everything I had. It’s strange how much the music culture has changed in roughly ten years.
After reading several of these comments, I realized it might have been fairly common for those struggling with religious angst, consciously or not, to relate to SP. This band was practically my life support as a teen, which worried everyone around me, from my parents to my Christian friends. They told me it was making me depressed, to which I countered that their obliviousness to the reasons I was depressed was making me depressed. Not only did Corgan understand, he understood more than I could at that age. The theatricality of the band made their oeuvre feel significant, far more so than any other band before or since (except maybe The Beatles in the late sixties). Their b-sides only expanded this depth, as they used them to explore their personal and experimental sides–and this in an era when most bands barely had one side to show. They created another world that readdressed reality for the Caulfield’s in need of an outlet which, in the nineties, before the internet was ubiquitous and when the mainstream in-group alienated out-groups with absolute authority, was a rare and merciful gift.
Of course, their music was, and is, phenomenal, which certainly added to their appeal. In my opinion, Siamese Dream is the best rock record of the nineties. It was the first rock album I ever bought (I’m not counting Christian rock albums). I remember feeling a mix of fear and exhilaration as it started to play. Buying it was almost an act of rebellion against my own sensibilities, and yet, there was something about their music that made it almost inevitable that I would purchase it. Even today, I can barely believe how good it is. Even though the lyrics are simple and at times sophomoric, the sentiment behind them is stunningly acute and far-reaching. The more I’ve learned in life, the more they mean to me. I have a feeling most young adults can’t say that about the songs they loved in high school.
Adore is my second favorite Pumpkins album. It’s messy but essential. Listen to any of these songs live and you’ll realize what legs they have. (That is another great trait of the band: they constantly reinvented and revised their songs in their live shows, making their bootlegs essential rather than redundant.) To Shelia, Once Upon a Time, Shame, and Blank Page are as good of songs as they’ve ever written, post-Siamese. Adore completes the transition from rock band with Gish and Siamese Dream to an experimental band, which started with Mellon Collie and Aeroplane. It’s also their most emotionally naked album, and perhaps the one that most succinctly summarizes their appeal. The album stubbornly focuses on broken love, whether broken through death, one’s flaws, or love’s inherent selfishness.
I’ll stop with Mellon Collie, which is also messy but gloriously so. Perhaps I overplayed it as a teen, but I find I revisit it less frequently than SD or Adore. It has great attitude and range, and in many ways it is the quintessential Pumpkins album. Nevertheless, in my opinion, the “day in the life” concept creates a whole that is more than its individual parts–a heartwarming reminder of when albums were king, pre-MP3 era. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure I’ve listened to this album close to a hundred times which clearly shows that I love it. Still, where Siamese Dream means as much, if not more to me today, Mellon Collie feels like a bittersweet memory of a life I’m happy I outgrew.
If you’ve read this far, thanks for indulging me on my sentimental history. I’ve enjoyed reading everyone’s comments and can’t help but notice they seem far more heartfelt than usual, which is a clear testament to the band.
I figured the “little Bobby Dylan” glibness was a tip-off that my tone was tongue in cheek, so it’s almost amusing to me that you read my post with such hostility. I was simply commenting on the multiple absurdities of this list that annoyed me the most, just like everyone else. I love these brief, antagonistic internet messages, though. You know, the ones so cool the writer doesn’t bother mentioning what they’re upset about? I’m assuming it’s not about Pet Sounds or Bob Dylan. I own “Different Class” and don’t care for it, though I see the skill that went behind it, and I know a lot of people swear by it. In comparison, I have never personally heard anyone say that Oasis is one of the ten best bands who have ever walked the earth, so in contrast, sure, why not Pulp? Oasis is likeable and all, but are they better than Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, The Beach Boys, Elliott Smith, Radiohead, My Bloody Valentine, Nirvana…? Is that really controversial on my part? I’m all for complaining about whatever, though. It is the internet, after all!
How am I the first person to notice the appalling lack of Brian Wilson in the top twenty? Two Beatles albums but no Pet Sounds? And what about little Bobby Dylan? Considering more than half of their top twenty is from British artists and bands, I can’t help but note some nationalistic revisionism at play in this list. I mean, an Oasis album is ranked as one of the top ten greatest albums of all time. Why are we even complaining about Pulp being four spots higher?
If music is becoming less important to people, first of all, that’s a symptom of a dehumanized culture, as music is considered our first and most primal form of communication, but second, it could be THE RESULT of file sharing in a culture obsessed with financial value over personal worth. Functional truth is incredibly flexible, which creates the need for a society to articulate its boundaries of truth, the pursuit of virtually every artist in every field. If this need is dead, so is the society.