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Smashing Pumpkins
Adore JR Moores , October 8th, 2014 14:42

On its initial release there were few people who listened to Smashing Pumpkins' Adore and thought, "you know what this record needs? More songs!" And this was 1998. Back when the human brain was still capable of patience and concentration. Back when you couldn't just stream everything willy-nilly; you had to force yourself to enjoy every single CD you owned simply to justify the £13.99 you'd handed to Our Price. Back when you could sit and read a whole novel from cover to cover without your brain screaming. "I wonder if my links have had any likes or shares yet, I’d better just check." Back when 'Revenge Porn' meant enrolling in a comprehensive line-drawing class for three years, persuading your partner to let you patiently sketch her like Kate Winslet in Titanic, and then fastening the charcoaled result to a prominently-placed cork pinboard. Even in those halcyon days, the 70-plus-minute running time of Adore was quite the struggle.

Yet here he comes again, Billy Corgan, continuing his amusing mission of making albums that were already far too long even chuffing longer by reissuing what is arguably the least celebrated of the original Pumpkins records with five CDs and one DVD of bonus material. It feels like more. Which I guess is good value, in a way.

Corgan is, famously, a man who has less time for quality control than Caitlin Moran does for the thought of not pulling a funny face. Sure, the sprawling Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness was bloated and indulgent (shout-out to my schoolmate who purchased the cumbersome double-cassette version which meant he couldn't even skip the duller tracks effectively, the poor sod) but at that point there was still something rather impressive about Corgan's brazen ambitions, churning out material at a rate that made him the most prolific rock-music-maker of his generation, much of which was actually pretty good, if you could put up with his bunged-snout pig-squeal voice. The outpouring of diverse material that defined the Mellon Collie era could not be sustained, however, and Adore was the point at which Corgan & co. finally ran out of steam, flew off the rails and onto the wrong platform.

It was an album born of tragedy, misfortune and bad choices. Drummer Jimmy Chamberlin was fired from the band for his part in the heroin binge that killed touring keyboardist Jonathan Melvoin. On top of this double loss, front-Pumpkin Corgan was going through a divorce, mourning the death of his mother, and taking "copious amounts" of ecstasy (which begs the question, just how much more maudlin would Adore have sounded without those happy pills?). Guitarist James Iha was busy working on his own lacklustre solo album. And who knows what D'arcy Wretzky was up to, but it seems to have involved hard drugs/madness and she too was kicked out before long.

Having to follow his elaborate prog-grunge double-album without Chamblerlin to help forge the path, Corgan was caught in two minds over how to reinvent his Pumpkins. In one of his palms sat the option of "industrial-electro goth-pop". On the other hand was "stripped-down acoustic folk music". Unable to make the decision, Corgan clapped his pale hands together, mashing both musical directions into a sad grey mulch. To be fair, he did nail each genre on Adore's first two tracks. 'To Sheila' is a powerfully understated, beautifully miserable wee ditty, which is followed by the counterpoint of 'Ava Adore', a loud lump of swaggering electro sleaze. Much of the rest plods along at similar tempos mixing acoustic guitars or pianos with hushed stand-in drummers, or drum machines, or drummers who sound like drum machines. 'Tear', 'Crestfallen', 'Appels + Oranjes' [sic], not even an unpeeled Our Price price-sticker could inspire the level of sustained, determined effort that it would take to truly love these tracks. The latter is a lyrical low-point with its "What if the sun refused to shine? What if the clouds refused to rain? What if the wind refused to blow?" rhetorical nonsense. What if the Pumpkins had never released Adore? Or spent more time on it? Or less, perhaps? Or abandoned it altogether? Would things have turned out differently? Would Corgan's mojo have survived intact? Would his reputation? Would he have still formed Zwan? 'For Martha' and 'Blank Page' pick up the quality at the end (the former a grand 8-minute tribute to Corgan's mother), but it's too little, too late.

Corgan's nasal mewl was best suited to snarling adolescently misanthropic lines about the world being a vampire, God being empty, or "Rat-tat-tat, ka-boom-boom" over massive alt-rock riffs and the beats of an irreplaceably talented drummer. And it's bearable on ballads such as 'Disarm', '1979' or 'Thirty-Three' when you know there's something meatier, louder, faster or proggier just around the corner (plus they're all great songs, which does help), but boy does his voice grind over the course of a CD-filling collection of downbeat synth-tinged grief-folk. The problem wasn't just that Corgan chose too many songs (as per always), but that he also chose the wrong songs. Why didn't he add some variety in the vein of 'Ava Adore' by including strong Pumpkins soundtrack songs from this era such as 'Eye' (from David Lynch's Lost Highway) or 'The End Is The Beginning Is The End' (from Joel Schumacher's Batman & Robin atrocity)? He also left off 'Blissed And Gone', which has a morbid pace and tone akin to many of Adore's tracks, but is a far greater song.

CD2 is the whole thing again, only in mono. What's the difference? Ask Richer Sounds. Then it's the usual barrel-scrape of demos, outtakes, remixes, live cuts and studio piss-abouts, some of which do offer hints of what might have been, had Corgan made wiser selections. CD3 features several solo acoustic demos which suggest Corgan had originally been planning his own version of Nebraska, until all the studio gloss and butterfingered electronics were added. On these his voice is less bleating. It's cracked, soft and frail, giving you some sense of the human being behind the Nosferatu Halloween costume. Other cuts exhibit the alternative extreme, showcasing the greater sonic experimentation that could've made the album far more interesting, had they not become so diluted by the end. There's even 'To Sheila (Early Banjo Version)' and a previously unreleased Puff Daddy remix. It's all beats, synths and sweeping strings, with Mr Daddy piling on the cheese after the insane success of 'I'll Be Missing You'. I'd have preferred more urban grittiness and the insertion of a rap verse. Like Ice-T's remix of 3 Colours Red's 'This Is My Hollywood', a stone-cold classic 90s rock-rap remix, that. 
As brave an attempt at a post-catastrophe revamp as it was, this was an album that only the most loyal and dedicated fan could, well, adore. Now reissued in a horrendously expensive edition which only the most loyal, dedicated and forgiving fan would be bonkers enough to fork out for. Which might just make it the ultimate box set, in a way.