Sunday, October 19, 2014

Review- The Smashing Pumpkins/ Adore Deluxe Edition Box Set

The Smashing Pumpkins/ Adore Deluxe Edition Box Set (Virgin/ Universal, 2014)

'90s nostalgia...I am not feeling it. I bought the original album the day that it came out and loved it immediately. While every late 30s/ early 40-something claims that they loved Gish and maybe Siamese Dream, the fact of the matter is that The Pumpkins could do no wrong to these people until this album came out. This album was a successful artistic experiment to me but was essentially career suicide as far as the general audience was concerned.

I tend to dislike electronic music, as it feels like a soulless shuffle of beeps and blips. The curious thing about my disdain of it is that I found this album to be highly listenable. I loathed Techno and DJs during this time. While I enjoy the Pumpkins at their rockingest, it was always the quieter interludes and dynamics which drew me to them like a moth to the flame. This album delivered it in spades. The acoustic, almost folky sound was marinated in electronics...and for my money it worked. Lyrically Corgan was pushing himself to his poetic best. Those with less ability call it pretentious. The rest of us celebrate his work while he is still alive, as all of the naysayers will when he dies.

The Rock was almost nonexistent on this album. Sure, Pug is basically an electronica version of Blue Oyster Cult's Godzilla and the guitar solo for Ava Adore was Billy Corgan's love letter to Brian May, but beyond that Rock was dead in 1998. I was a sad panda at that time. I immediately recognized the bridge of For Martha as the Mellon Collie outtake Wishing You Were Real (I had the silver back Moonraker bootleg The Mellon Collie Demos in 1996; still own it and many others). If I had a blog in 1998 these observations would have been listed after a single listen.

While the original album is remastered on Disc One (not sure why- it was recorded digitally and mixed and mastered for the CD format to begin with), it is the Mono mix on Disc Two, originally done for the vinyl release, that really made me sit up and take notice. Songs with excessive bass like Ava Adore are rendered a muddy, thuddy mess. Once Upon A Time was a revelation, though. The mono mix for that song was like hearing it again for the first time. So much better. Shame remains one of my all time favorite Pumpkins songs in mono or stereo.

I was an avid bootleg trader back in the Internet stone age. Dial up made torrents pointless, so traders burned CDs and mailed them to one another. I have had many of the unreleased songs found on Discs three through five for years. Songs like Chewing Gum and My Mistake are old favorites to me. Don't get me wrong, I am absolutely thrilled to see this stuff see an official release. The 2014 remixes of songs are worthless to me, though. There are several B-sides, soundtrack songs, and EP tracks omitted from this set, any of which would have been preferred to the pointless 2014 remixes. It was cool to finally hear the Adore version of Let Me Give The World To You, as that was one of those mythical songs that never surfaced way back when. Had the band included this and released it as a single this album might not have stiffed on the charts. It is easy to say this from my armchair 16 years later. Who could predict that the band's audience wouldn't join them on the journey?

Disc Six is a live compilation. I caught the band on this tour when they played the State Theatre in Detroit in July of 1998. While I loved the different arrangements of these songs the crowd was bored to tears due to the downbeat nature of the album. They played the album in it's entirety and three songs off of Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness in radically different form. The songs from Hallowe'en 1998 at Dodger Stadium were televised as part of the Kiss Psycho Circus tour opening night special. I remember watching it, and I have a bootleg of the full Pumpkins show somewhere in my stacks of Pumpkins bootlegs.

I have yet to watch any of the DVDs that have come with any of the other five Deluxe Edition box sets, so why start now? I listen to music. If I want to watch music I will go to a concert. I am extremely old fashioned in this regard, and it comes from growing up in a house without cable and listening to music rather than watching it on MTV like all of my friends did.

This box set is quite an undertaking. Six audio CDs and one DVD in a deluxe box. The box has a foil wrapping and the cover is a different shot from the roll of the original album cover. It is presented in color here. I never realized that the woman's dress was a flower until seeing it in color. Inside are several “snapshots” and a nice booklet. The seven discs are all in individual card sleeves. You certainly get your bang for the buck here. While I own everything from this era I like comprehensive compilations too. I would have been in for an eight disc set with the remaining material B-side, EP, and soundtrack material. Maybe when Billy Corgan does the super duper duper ultra mega box in 2030...

Adore remains one of my personal favorites, possibly the greatest break up album of all time. Little did I realize that the band itself was breaking up internally at the time. I have no nostalgia for the '90s; that is for those that were too young to live it. I lived the decade and am done with it. You couldn't pay me to go back to 1998. This album still sounds good to my ears but it is not a nostalgia trip. I remain passionate about the band all of these years later and look forward to both new albums next year, and buying them again in 2031 in box set format.

Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.25 out of 5. 

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