Saturday, December 22, 2012

Review- The Smashing Pumpkins/ Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness Deluxe Edition

The Smashing Pumpkins/ Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness Deluxe Edition (2012; original album released in 1995)
This era of the band is near and dear to my heart, as many of my life's changes from adolescence into adulthood occurred during the release cycle and tour for this album. As corny as it sounds, I credit this album with saving my life. The album itself is the first 2 discs in the box, remastered. I scratch my head with remastering material that was originally mastered for the CD format. It does sound different, with things popping out of the mix that weren't as pronounced on the original release. This feels more like a remix or EQ tweaking than a remaster. Suffice it to say that the original album is brilliant and holds up some 17 years later. I'll keep this review focused on the extras since I would just ramble on endlessly about the brilliance of this double album.
The card that was in the shrinkwrapping on the back of the box.
It's great to finally see Methusela (Sadlands Demo) officially released, as it is one of those great songs that has always had me puzzled as to why it was never used anywhere before. X.Y.U. (Take 11) is savage, being closer to the live version musically. Autumn Nocturne (Sadlands Demo) has been a favorite of mine since I procured the silver back, factory manufactured The Mellon Collie Demos bootleg back in 1996. It was at this point that I began acquiring insane amounts of bootlegs, eventually becoming a bootleg trader in the Internet stone ages, back when dial-up connectivity made downloading prohibitive and the small but dedicated trading community traded pure sourced, non-compressed files via blank CDs. Hey kids, did you know that blank CDs once cost about $6 each and were only 74 minutes? 
Ugly (Sadlands Demo) is another one from the aforementioned Mellon Collie Demos bootleg. I am absolutely, positively thrilled to see these lost gems get a proper, official release. I have long felt that it was criminal that these treasures were buried and unavailable to the general public. Lily (My One and Only) (Sadlands Demo) is another one from the aforementioned The Mellon Collie Demos bootleg, so I've been listening to this version nearly as long as the album proper. It's a more stripped down take with the lyric “ But a constable is knocking at my door”. I always thought that Billy used constable in the early version instead of officer because it seems like the original concept for the album was a turn of the century love story. By turn of the century I mean turn of the 20th century, by the way. 
This was the most prolific era for Billy Corgan as a songwriter, as he was shitting out song ideas that most bands would kill for. He was writing and recording so many songs that it was impossible for him to release it all, even with a double album and 5 singles with several B-sides each and a seemingly endless parade of compilations and soundtracks. Ideas fell through the cracks, such as Glamey Glamey (Sadlands Demo), which never got beyond the instrumental phase (as far as we fans know). It's a flippin' incredible riff that he left to rot. Other songs like Meladori Magpie saw the light of day as a B-side, but only the diehards hunted these down and it never got the attention it deserved. It's a charming, romantic, country tinged song. Pennies was another B-side that deserved better. I'd rank it among Corgan's cleverest songs, a snarky send off to a jilted lover played and sang in a deceptively catchy, sing-a-long manner. 
Towers of Rabble was like the Maltese Falcon of Pumpkins demos during my trader days. Everyone knew of it, no one had it, and torrents as such were new and not as expansive as they are today. It has all of the ingredients of what could have been a classic Pumpkins song, but it was never fully realized and was abandoned. One must give props to Corgan for endlessly moving forward. Once he is done with an era, he's done with it. No going back and tweaking old ideas or reusing outtakes when ideas ran out. I can't say that I would've done the same thing.
This box set qualifies as a dream come true for me. I have had some of these demos forever but have always hoped that they would someday see the light of day. That day has arrived. If you are, or ever were, a fan of the band, particularly this era, then this box set is a must buy. This is the holy grail, ladies and gentlemen. While the box sets for the first three albums have had omissions that left me wrangling my hands together, this hits every sweet spot and has the kitchen sink thrown in. There are other things from this era not on this box, but I'm happy.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 5 out of 5.
The OCD zone- I love packaging and physical media, and this box set is a bonanza. The box itself has a magnetic clamp and the cover has a lacquered, layered feeling. Very strange and very cool. The booklets are all LP sized, as is the box itself. The first booklet is an expanded version of the first booklet in the CD, with tons of new liner notes and pictures including Corgan's original sketches and ideas for the pictures in the original booklet. The second booklet is an LP sized replica of the original second booklet for the CD, the lyric one. There CD's are housed in a hardcover gatefold with 6 slots (5 CDs, 1 DVD) and has a luxurious felt feel to it. There are several cardboard LP sized stills and a small card explaining the Japanning process used in constructing the album artwork. Try downloading any of this shit, torrent dwellers. The tactile sensations and overall presentation enhance the listening experience and are why I will always, always, always be a physical media dinosaur.

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