There’s a standout single on Smashing Pumpkins’ Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. No, it’s not “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” (although that’s a close second), but “1979,” that melancholy ode to teenage ennui, where an entire suburb can serve as your playground — just keep an eye out for cops.
“1979” became one of the most important songs Smashing Pumpkins ever wrote, because it was both a celebration and eulogy for adolescence. From the quintessential shot of the teens flipping off their small town set to a sunny sky, to some of the group getting left behind by the end of the night after trashing a corner store, the message is implicit: Those years of your life will come and go just as fast as day turns to night. Angst, carelessness, confusion, frustration, lust, and, of course, melancholy, are all wrapped up in four minutes and 22 seconds.
The parties aren’t as great as they used to be — youth turns to adulthood, and suddenly everything changes. Sadness is inevitable, one of those emotions that we fear and try to ignore whenever it presents itself. But doesn’t it deserve to be celebrated like all others?
Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness is that; an ambitious two-disc, 28-song, 121-minute project dedicated to the thing we fear most, with Billy Corgan and company serving as the backing band to the saddest party ever.
The songs are beautiful and luscious in their production, each one seeping into the next seamlessly. The title track, with its somber piano melody, leads into the upbeat gloom that is “Tonight, Tonight,” orchestral strings sweltering underneath pretty guitar. “The impossible is possible tonight,” sings Corgan, the statement just as triumphant as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra that bravely follows his lead.
Then, everything gets heavy: “Jellybelly” bleeds with dissonance and distortion; “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” offers one of the most self-pitying choruses ever written (“Despite all my rage, I am still just a rat in a cage”); and “F*ck You (An Ode to No One)” is a feedback ticking time bomb that Corgan claimed he had to record until his fingers bled.