Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness

4MellonCollieHighResWhere do I begin with Mellon Collie and the Infinite? Also what better way to celebrate Music, Movies, General Life and Such’s first anniversary than with a review than with a review of one of the defining albums of my life? I hope to come to you with the answer to both of these difficult conundrums. In the height of the Smashing Pumpkins glory days, hot off the heels of 1993’s Siamese Dream and the surprise success of the Pisces Iscariot mix-tape, the band dropped a behemoth double-album that amped up the scale of the groups, already huge, output. Mellon Collie, spanning across 28 tracks, was an album that not only set the bands career as one of grunge rocks pioneering sound in stone but also gave the world one of, simply, the greatest albums of all time and one that is still to this day underrated.

The records detractors would have that the Pumpkins were always a band whose ambitions was to be a stadium band and for that reason that this album, and all its predecessors, think they’re greater than they actually are. While it would be impossible to argue there’s a slight arrogance in the whole of the Pumpkins aura and that it shines through especially in Mellon Collie, it’s actually quite unfair to claim that said arrogance is misplaced. While the SP’s remain a band that sit just underneath the radar of the mainstream they cannot be denied as one of the most influential groups of all time. This record is a glowing example of a band at their peak of their, musical, song-writing and performing abilities, a group completely unafraid of just doing what they want. It rises and drops as record, flowing from the heaviest rock of any Pumpkins record to the calmest and most minimalistic music the band has ever recorded. Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness really is one of the most diverse albums out there. And despite the records arrogance what also comes trough is a sensitive honesty on display of a band really wearing their hearts on their sleeves emotionally as well as musically through this collection of songs. For every, ‘I don’t need your love to disco dance’ there is a ‘Forgotten and absorbed into the Earth below’ to counteract it. And its clear to see that, as well as, wanting to show off they were also releasing a part of their lives.

The answer, then, to my first question at the beginning of this review is that it’s near impossible to know where to start when looking at this beast of an album. But the reason for that is that there’s so much great stuff about it while you try to explain you end up getting up in another. Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness could well be, for me, the most perfectly complete album in the world. It remains, and will always remain, a record that I will never stop listening to regularly and will never stop loving.

P.S. In answer to my second question, no.

 

Pisces Iscariot

Smashing_Pumpkins_-_Pisces_Iscariot_-_frontMy next Pumpkins review takes me to the unusual grounds of Pisces Iscariot. The album that isn’t really an album. Pisces Iscariot was actually just a mix tape of some b-sides and covers and things that was put together for the die hard fans at the time. But the record ended up earning platinum status. When listening to the album its not hard to figure out why. It was made during the bands prime, released in between their two biggest and best albums and captured more of the magic of a band who, in my opinion, are on of the greatest of all time.

The album never feels as though it’s a collection of songs, it holds its own sounds like an album that was made to be an album. It features a number of favourite tracks the Pumpkins have ever done. A Girl Named Sandoz is a cover but has become one of my favourite Pumpkins tracks, also their cover of Fleetwood Mac’s Landslide gives the original a run for its money. In terms of original material on the record the versatility of the tracks go some way to showing you how diverse a band the Pumpkins were flowing from the calming Soothe into the distorted grunge of Frail and Bedazzled is just the beginning of an unpredictable collection none of which disappoints.

The 2012 re-release and re-master of the album has come under a bit of criticism as there apparently some sound quality issues on some of the tracks, to my untrained ears I didn’t notice anything though to be honest. And with the box set you are also treated to a DVD of the groups first ever TV performance which includes a  number of early tracks I’d never heard before and are actually awesome. Overall Pisces Iscariot is very close to being my favourite Pumpkins record there is, an amazing achievement for a mix tape.

 

Siamese Dream

smashing-pumpkins-siamese-dreamContinuing with my Pumpkins series we move on to 1993’s Siamese Dream. The album that saw them rise to be alternative rock God’s known all over the world. The album is to this day regarded as a seminal work, and one of the most influential rock albums in history. I’m going to give it a go at describing why its just so damn awesome.

From the moment the record burst into life with opening track ‘Cherub Rock’ its clear that the band have changed since Gish, not only because of better production values, but the overall feeling of grandeur is amped up so much higher. The music has a much more immersive feel. You can also notice change in how much more willing they are to be weird, they forget conventions which I feel may have been holding them back during the Gish-era and go their own completely unique way. The whole album has such unique sound, no record ever has ever sounded quite like it and that, therefore sets out as part of an elite group of albums. As well as creating the feeling of grandeur, that was later to amplified further with Mellon Collie, they still retain their ability to be utterly angst-ridden and melodramatic, with the anthemic ‘Today’ or even the reflective, melancholic ‘Disarm’. The album has a grungy sound but it is so much more than grunge, it makes grunge all the more awkward and less relatable than Nirvana or Pearl Jam.

It, simply put, is one of the greatest albums of all time and I will always love it with all my heart.

 

Gish

gish_jpg_640x590_q85Since I’ve reached the end of my Biffy Clyro album reviews it’s the turn of another of my favourite bands, probably my favourite of them all, to have their discography discussed. These reviews will contain added excitement since I’ve recently booked to go and see them at Wembley in July. So, we head back to the beginning of The Smashing Pumpkins history with their debut LP, Gish.

Released in 1991 the Pumpkins joined the scene at the rise of grunge along with Pearl Jam and Nirvarna but the Pumpkins didn’t hit in the same way those bands did. They’re a far more complicated band and to describe Gish as a grunge record would be rather diminutive. Although it is easily the bands grungiest effort of them all I still feel it would be accurate to call it anti-grunge. To unpack that, what I mean is that they’ve taken the guitar sound and song structure from that sub section of music but added a grnader scale and ambition to the project. Gish is the first example and perhaps the most subdued as with Siamese Dream, the bands second album they up the weirdness to different level than they have here. But even knowing what the band became it’s still hard not to notice the distinctive sound that is to be found on this record.

It certainly is a very strong debut album although I wouldn’t say it stands up fully against the greats that were to follow it, its still a record that I will happily put on from time to time and witness the birth of one of the greatest bands of all time. The bonus tracks on the second disc of the re-released version are all interesting listens too if you fancy checking that out.

 

Wolf’s Law

542632_10151281327235783_91241549_nIf you’ve been a reader of the blog you might have read my last post on The Joy Formidable which you should be able to find on the band plug page. It’s been a couple of years now since the band burst on to the scene with their debut The Big Roar, a record which shattered my expectations and make me take notice of the Welsh three piece who pack a lot more bite than the majority of indie bands out there. Last week the group returned with their second album Wolf’s Law.

The albums got a lot of similarities with their last one, juxtaposing grungy riffs with more awkward indie sensibilities and again this record really does pack a punch. It’s not hard to see why these guys are now regarded so highly. My personal favourite tracks are the heavier ones in particular The Maw Maw Song which feels like the closest thing they’ve got to match some of the best tracks on their first album. But ultimately when compared to their debut Wolf’s Law just doesn’t quite match up for me. When The Big Roar came out I’d never heard of these guys and they demanded that I listened to them, over and over again. With Wolf’s Law I haven’t felt that again, I’ve enjoyed, I’ve listened to it a few times but it’s not grabbed my attention enough and it’s release date was a stupid one being one week before the new Biffy and three before Foals two very similar but more established bands. Wolf’s Law is good but it’s not great.

 

The Joy Formidable

Back in early 2011 I was on the prowl for some new music, while scrolling through some new releases on iTunes I came across the release of The Joy Formidable’s debut album The Big Roar. I listened to a couple of track snippets and thought they sounded like a decent indie band so I bought the album. What I got from The Big Roar, though, was so much more than I was expecting. The trio from North Wales can hardly even be called an indie band really. Their album is a powerhouse of indie, rock and at times metal and grunge.

The group are not afraid to just burst into an assault of sound. Songs like ‘Austere’ and ‘A Heavy Abacus’ spend a lot of time rocking your socks off with a cacophony of guitars and drums. Their sound is made even more impressive by the fact that they’re only a three piece and they still manage to replicate this stuff live. It also speaks to their musicianship that with only three members they can be so diverse. As well as being able to burst out your speakers they show, as well, that they know how to be sensitive. For example in ‘Llaw = Wall’ they use one of the boys voices creating a calming juxtaposition from Ritzy Bryan’s usual vocals. The Big Roar genuinely roars.

The two songs they’ve released ahead of their new album, Wolf’s Law due in January, show that they’re still pushing boundaries and creating great new music. ‘Cholla’ is perhaps the bands grungiest song to date with a big rock riff blaring throughout, whereas, ‘Wolf’s Law’ shows, again, their more gentle side and sensitive approach. The Joy Formidable are a band that actually have something fresh, whenever you think you might be able to pigeon hole them they’ll show you something that proves you can’t, and they manage to shatter through a number of different genres. These guys a band to watch. Watch this space for an album review in Jan.