Noah's Beat Box

Smashing Pumpkins – Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness Vinyl 4LP Boxset

This column is a reprint from Unwinnable Monthly #173. If you like what you see, grab the magazine for less than ten dollars, or subscribe and get all future magazines for half price.

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Now this.

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I know I’ve spent a lot of time in the past five years covering hip hop, but I do enjoy other musical styles on occasion. I was raised listening to classical music with my dad, and my mom got me into some of the classics from the ’60s when I was young – I still have a soft spot for The Beatles and Bob Dylan. When I left for college, I quickly discovered more classic artists that still get spins, like The Velvet Underground and Iggy Pop. And of course, I started to dive into the soul and funk scenes as I began sourcing out samples from my favorite hip hop tracks. But as a kid who entered their teenage years in the ’90s, I can’t deny that the era of “alternative rock” resonates strongly with me. If a band was getting airtime on 105.7 The Point here in STL in 1998, I was probably getting into it. Some of them (Beck, Alice in Chains, Rob Zombie) are still in rotation today.

But of all the ’90s era bands, few spoke to me like The Smashing Pumpkins (editor’s note: Pumpkins originalists (such as myself) will be keen to note that on several albums they credit themselves as The Smashing Pumpkins, notably here, on Adore and since 2012). What can I say – Billy Corgan’s nasal croon spoke to a very specific form of angst that ran through Gen X and dribbled down to little old pre-teen me. So, when I learned that there was a deluxe vinyl edition of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, I knew I had to get my hands on a copy. However, it was normally retailing between $80-$100, and that just seems out of my price range. I do have a two-year-old and work at a non-profit, and that just seemed a bit unnecessary. Fortunately, my sister took the hint when I posted it to my siblings group chat and got it for me for Christmas, and oh boy, it is a delight.

When Mellon Collie released initially, it was already a double disc CD. In the age where even relatively short albums get split into two records, it only makes sense that Mellon Collie is split into four. Each record comes with a unique sleeve that has the classic decoupage imagery from John Craig: rodents smoking hookah in an opium den; an airplane flown by birds with dapper monocles; rabbits playing a game of cricket; two girls wandering through a field of yellow flowers with a lamb. It feels like a mixture of something by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood mixed with the science fiction of A Trip to the Moon – an art nouveau take on steampunk. Given that each record is double sleeved (the inside sleeve just has a nice swirling design), there is a clear invitation to frame them as a quadriptych on a wall. I will say that I’ve been tempted, but I can’t get myself to take down my current selection of Liquid Swords, Donuts, Clouds, and MM.. Food.

When all of these custom sleeves are combined in an elegant box, the price almost starts to feel worth it. But then, the box also includes a lovely insert with full lyrics, and a slim book of interviews with Corgan about each song on the album. Flipping through these pages you’ll learn Corgan’s ambition to make his version of Pink Floyd’s The Wall, his summation of the smash hit “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” as a “withering attack on the lameness of fame,” and how his heart was broken at 16. I could go farther into the music itself too, but that seems like, in the nearly 30 years of existence, not much more needs to be written on that front.

Instead, I’ll simply say that of all the albums from the ’90s alternative rock scene, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness is one of the most deserving for a deluxe treatment like this. With all of the extra visual production around the album, this deluxe edition truly offers something that can’t be replaced by streaming. It’s a remnant of a past that focused on material music products, and a reminder that they still hold value today. If you’ve got the spare scratch lying around and have a fondness for vinyl and/or The Smashing Pumpkins, I couldn’t recommend it more.

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Noah Springer is a writer and editor based in St. Louis. You can follow him on Twitter @noahjspringer.

 

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