Playing God
The Smashing Pumpkins: Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness

By: Cosmo Lee
2005-08-01



Posted 08/01/2005 - 09:11:49 AM by elbrown:
 Say what you will, but the simple fact is that in 69 Love Songs, The Magnetic Fields pulled of a triple! album that is far better than most single-disc attempts. And don't tell me it's full of filler, because it's not. Why shouldn't artists make their albums long? We demand brilliance from them; at the least, they deserve our full attention. Besides, when you make these little reductionist versions of brilliant albums, do you actually listen to them? Don't you find youself missing the rest of the album? I tried Stylus' brutalization of Summerteeth; how am I supposed to live without Via Chicago?
 
Posted 08/01/2005 - 12:14:52 PM by bassman08:
 elbrown, I think that Mellon Collie was good, but the simple fact is that a lot of the songs on the album sound like they could probably have been left off and left to B-sides and no one would have been the wiser. That's not even a dis on the Pumpkins - "Aeroplane Over The Sea" is a great collection, and there are a bunch of Mellon Collie album tracks that could have fit in nicely on it. This different tracklisting looks very good though, I'll have to test it out when I get home. I love these playing God things, a lot of the time if I listen to an album in the suggested order it gives me a different (though not always necessarily "better" feel of the album). The LCD one, however, I DID find to be better and more cohesive. Anyway, this is cool, I havent thought about the Pumpkins for a long time.
 
Posted 08/01/2005 - 12:59:47 PM by J_R_K_:
 i can't decide which is worse: cutting "thru the eyes of ruby" or getting rid of "muzzle". ok, i decided that everything the pumpkins did after this record is worse.
 
Posted 08/01/2005 - 01:05:20 PM by wmdavidson:
 Using favorite b-sides to contruct alternate versions of albums is an exercise I enjoy doing myself, so I find the Playing God feature fascinating and usually quite canny. Keep up the good work. However... I would like to echo elb's objection to the cliche that all double albums are overlong and overindulgent. Album length is an artistic choice like any other, and a double album is not inherently bad any more than a 45-minute single album is inherently worse than a 30-minute single album. And anyway come on, the White Album? Bitches Brew? Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs? Quadrophenia? English Settlement? Lots of double albums rule.
 
Posted 08/01/2005 - 02:48:03 PM by cosmokane31:
 elbrown and wmdavison - i didn't say that all double albums were bad. in fact, i listed criteria for good ones - good concept, and/or abundance of great songs. plenty of double albums satisfy these criteria, including the ones you mentioned. mcatis did not satisfy these criteria; i am not speaking about the magnetic fields or the who or the beatles. you may notice that most of the ones you listed were released during the vinyl era. i still think that there are fewer good double albums in the cd age than in the vinyl era. yes, i have in fact listened to the tracklisting i constructed. it took me hours, i have listened to it many times, and i think it works. if you disagree or think mcatis is a brilliant album as is, i'd love to hear your opinion.
 
Posted 08/01/2005 - 03:55:49 PM by wmdavidson:
 Cosmo, I misread your intro as a criticism of *all* double albums. Sorry about that. Still, your criteria for a double album justifying its length could just as easily be applied to a single album, or a 15-minute EP. Even a 3-minute song can overstay its welcome if it runs out of ideas. Great article nonetheless.
 
Posted 08/01/2005 - 04:32:46 PM by cosmokane31:
 wmdavidson - thanks for the props! and you're right, bad music is bad music, no matter the context. but the context itself matters to me as a listener (and as a music buyer - double albums can be expensive). individual songs are nice, but there's something special about listening to a whole that's greater than its parts. and when i pay for and slog through something like mcatis, i'm frustrated that the album didn't come with only its best stuff.
 
Posted 08/01/2005 - 09:18:56 PM by wmdavidson:
 Cosmo, right on. The album experience is where it's at, and a double album is a special province of that. I tend to think of it positively though-- I like the crazy ambition that a double album represents-- which is why I hate that double albums are such a frequent whipping boy.
 
Posted 08/02/2005 - 02:36:17 AM by acid_puppy:
 I'd just like to say that omitting 'muzzle' should be a crime. my favorite song on the whole album
 
Posted 08/02/2005 - 08:36:46 AM by J_R_K_:
 the second disc should be one track - Muzzle.
 
Posted 08/02/2005 - 08:45:38 AM by Antonin:
 I find a great way of listening to the album is in its vinyl tracklisting. Aix sides, all 20-30 minutes each, going from soft/hard/soft/hard/hard/soft. A real cohesiveness on each side.
 
Posted 08/02/2005 - 08:46:20 AM by Antonin:
 Of course I meant "Six" sides.
 
Posted 08/02/2005 - 10:24:59 AM by boilingboy:
 "Muzzle" and "Through the Eyes of Ruby" are indeed great songs, and never should have been left off the new tracklist. Now, if you really want to Play God with the Pumpkins, a feature on Machina/Machina II would be so worthwhile. This was originally suppossed to be a dopuble album, and contains some brilliant moments amidst the dross.
 
Posted 08/02/2005 - 11:42:35 AM by thepuffin:
 Interesting choices, Cosmo. I've never been a big fan of "Love" or "To Forgive". I'd probably have to echo some of the others here and include "Ruby" (I'm a big fan of "Jellybelly" & "Bodies". On a related, yet slightly different track, here is my boiled down 10 track album that should have been the follow up to Mellon Collie that uses Aeroplane Flies... material: 1. Cherry 2. God 3. The Boy 4. Pennies 5. Ugly 6. Marquis In Spades 7. Believe 8. The Aeroplane Flies High 9. Set the Ray to Jerry 10. The Last Song I think it holds together surprisingly well. More so than Mellon Collie.
 
Posted 08/02/2005 - 01:00:11 PM by bassman08:
 There should be no question that Double Nickels On The Dime is the best double album ever created. 44 songs and not one filler track. That SHOULD be the album that all bands aspire to when making double albums.
 
Posted 08/03/2005 - 04:40:42 PM by IanMathers:
 I love my version of Summerteeth so much more than what's actually sitting on my shelf that I haven't listened to the album proper since. Of course, I still have "Via Chicago" on my Winamp playlist (great song, it just didn't fit the album for me).
 
Posted 08/04/2005 - 12:25:44 AM by cosmokane31:
 Mr. Mathers, you are the best defender of fellow Stylus writers. :) Although Jeff Tweedy/Billy Corgan would probably gnash their teeth if they saw this, I wholeheartedly support listener reworkings of albums into shapes they prefer, especially if the original shapes didn't cut it. (I routinely make versions of hip hop albums for myself minus the skits and filler) Now I'm going to have to try out your Summerteeth. If anybody's tried out my MCATIS, let me know what you think.
 
Posted 08/04/2005 - 11:20:02 AM by IanMathers:
 I haven't tried your Mellon Collie (and, barring the singles, have never heard the original), but I'd love to if somebody, say, sent me the files. Hint hint.
 
Posted 08/04/2005 - 02:44:46 PM by J_R_K_:
 No artist would release a work to the public they didn't feel comfortable with being re-worked. Once a song/record is released, an artist has to accept that maybe it will be remixed for a Coca-Cola commercial in another continent without their permission. I think these are cool series of articles, a little "fan-fiction" but then again I've made mix-tapes that do pretty much the same thing as ya'll.
 
Posted 08/06/2005 - 12:38:12 PM by cosmokane31:
 Ian - Surely you're not asking me to fileshare, are you? ;) I don't advocate filesharing, and, anyways, in this case, I recommend hearing the album as a whole; you may not necessarily agree with my assertions, or you could see where I'm coming from. J_R_K - I think a lot of control freak artists *would* be dismayed at seeing their creations disturbed or rearranged without their permission. The bootleg remixes will always happen, for sure, but, for example, I bet Trent Reznor puts a lot of time and effort into sequencing his albums. Yes, the Playing God column does what many other people already do; we're just more verbose about it :)
 
Posted 08/08/2005 - 09:33:36 PM by cleric:
 Although Reznor is a control freak, he actually released the single tracks and bits&pieces for some apple music software so everyone can rearrange the songs for themselves. and tbh i think mcatis is pretty much one of the best double albums of the last lets say 20 years imo. Agreed, some older vinyl double albums mentioned are better, but considering the often awful attempts nowadays this sp-release is really great.
 
Posted 10/10/2006 - 04:50:41 PM by Zarklephaser:
 Here is my 13-track version of Mellon Collie that follows the blueprint of Siamese Dream track-for-track (as far as album structure, tone and mood, high and low points, etc.) that I would argue is as good as (or even better than) that album:

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01 Where Boys Fear to Tread
02 Bodies

An excellent start to disc two of Mellon Collie; my version keeps both tracks intact, mirroring the one-two punch of "Cherub Rock" and "Quiet, rocking out at the start and avoiding the singles so far.

03 Muzzle
This should have been a single from Mellon Collie; it would be the lead single (and prominently placed third track, like "Today") on my version.

04 1979
05 Here Is No Why

A good spot for a couple strong songs (think "Hummer" and "Rocket") which deserve to come sooner than later in the album; "1979" would be the second or third single, along with...

06 Thirty-Three
07 We Only Come Out at Night

The last of the three singles from my version gets the spot of "Disarm" here, with an excellent low-key song (a la "Soma") to follow it and complement its mood perfectly.

08 Jellybelly
Lest the album go soft before its time, "Geek USA" is mirrored by this one.

09 Galapogos
The epic song, like "Mayonaise," that would rightfully be a fan favorite comes at this point; too far back in the track listing for fair-weather fans, just right for those who learn the album front-to-back.

10 Stumbleine
11 Thru the Eyes of Ruby
12 Lily (My One and Only)

Following the path of "Spaceboy"-"Silverfuck"-"Sweet Sweet" comes this trio of songs; the album's ambitious, lengthy, epic song bookended with a couple shorter, prettier ones.

13 Farewell and Goodnight
The closer on Mellon Collie stays where it should be, closing the album (like "Luna") with subtlety and beauty.

------

I don't really miss anything from the original Mellon Collie with my version, either.

- The ridiculous RAWK songs - "Zero," "Bullet with Butterfly Wings," "Fuck You," "Scorched Earth," and "XYU" - would be perfect for '90s alt-rock bands who actually deserve to suck, not the Pumpkins.

- The slower discarded songs - "To Forgive," "Cupid De Locke," "Take Me Down," "In the Arms of Sleep," "Beautiful," and "By Starlight" - are sappy and forgettable to my ears, especially compared to similar songs that made the cut.

- "Mellon Collie," the instrumental intro, was appropriate for an ambitious double album, not for my version.

- A couple songs in particular - "Tonight, Tonight" and "Love" - just didn't fit the overall mood of my version of the album.

- Two epics on my version would be excessive, so "Porcelina" was left behind in favor of "Ruby," which works better in context.
 
Posted 05/25/2007 - 07:23:30 AM by Warren:
 The build up to its release was incredible - I remember May/June 1995 with the same tingling feeling that Billy Cogan reminisces about 1979 – The radio promotions, competitions, interviews etc; unfortunately this overblown frenzy was inevitably going to end in disappointment, pretty hard to digest at an age when your favourite band almost seems sub human to you, so much larger then life. It just didn’t live up to expectations in so many ways for me, especially the one created at their inaugural live show in Chicago – the energy of their performance on that power-failure-ridden evening was indescribable and unmatched on the record; hearing Billy Corgan beg the question ‘wanna go for a ride?’(like he really meant it) for the FIRST time was an aural orgasm to my 15-year-old ears; without a string or a synth in site the performance was primarily guitar-driven, this and the fact that Billy actually sang (sometimes even shouted) as opposed to whispered songs like An Ode to No-One, Porcelina and Thru the Eyes of Ruby meant an entirely different experience when eventually hearing the album, which just sounded bloated, overproduced and at times even a bit contrived ( granted everything you would expect from a double album ). More then 10 years on, in fact just the other night, I was in a friend’s car singing along, in my worst possible Billy Corgan impression (which is the same as my best), to Starlight “ Dead Eyes, Dead Eyes, are you just like me?” Which brought me to this review: Albeit there are a sh!tload of songs I’d toss without any qualms, there are also way too many indispensable ones, and simplifying it into one disc of 15 tracks is an almost impossible task. But if I had a gun to my head, rest assured that Tonight Tonight, Cupid De Locke and Farewell and Goodnight would occupy the first, middle and last track spaces respectively.