HERE IS NO WHY – an in-depth look at “Mellon Collie and The Infinite Sadness” by Smashing Pumpkins – Part Two – “In the slipstream, of thoughtless thoughts”

melloncollie

“Porcelina of the Vast Oceans”

as far as you take me, that’s where i believe
the realm of soft delusions, floating on the laves
on a distant shoreline, she waves her arms to me
as all the thought police, and closing in for sleep
the dilly dally, of my bright lit stay
the steam of my misfortunes
has given me the power to be afraid
and in my mind i’m everyone
and in my mind
without a care in this whole world
without a care in this life
it’s what you take that makes it right
porcelina of the oceans blue
in the slipstream, of thoughtless thoughts
the light of all that’s good, the light of all that’s true
to the fringes gladly, i walk unadorned
with gods and their creations
with filth and disease
porcelina, she waits for me there
with seashell hissing lullabyes
and whispers fathomed deep inside my own
hidden thoughts and alibis
my secret thoughts come alive
without a care in this whole world
without a care in this life
it’s what you take that makes it right
and in my mind i’m everyone
in my mind i’m everyone of you
you make it right
it’s all alright
you make it right
porcelina of the oceans blue

I find it hard to explain to people the love I have for Billy Corgan as an artist and a human being. I’d love to say I have some kind of insight to Billy Corgan as a person after being a devotee to all his music for the past nineteen years of my life but the truth is my relationship with Billy Corgan is based solely on the music he has released with Smashing Pumpkins. That is where my understanding of him begins and that is where it ends.

Although I can name hundreds of other artists who are as equally as influential to me I always find that Billy Corgan wins out each time. There is some special energy inside of his vocals, guitar playing, melodic structure and overall songwriting technique that just plugs directly into every part of me and turns me on.  Although I find it difficult to articulate I have over the years reduced my reasoning to one very simple factor in terms of why Billy Corgan is my definition of the perfect creative human being. For me it is as simple as this, his voice, guitar playing and songwriting technique is the very definition of the ache.

The music he makes drips with all kinds of yearning and suggests emotions as opposed to announcing them. He deals in fantasy in order to paint you a picture of the intense emotions fuelling his music. Nothing is direct and I love that about his lyrics, they are vague yet cinematic in their delivery. It reads like nonsense poetry but when Billy Corgan sings his lyrics, the words become the perfect vehicle for escapism. Depending on where you find yourself they can help give context to your emotional drama or be the celebration song in a moment of pure joy.

Even though Billy Corgan has continued to produce amazing music, there is no greater example of his genius than “Mellon Collie and The Infinite Sadness” which for the past 20 years has been influencing every inch of the alternative rock landscape. To reflect on just how powerful this album is and how meaningful it is to me personally I have spent the last few weeks listening to nothing but Smashing Pumpkins. As is the case with all their music, this is a very nocturnal experience and a lot of my listening occurred via my headphones, alone in bed with the lights out. Last night as I was lying in bed, indulging this routine and waiting for sleep to kick in I found myself slipping into that weird space between the awake world and the unconscious world.

It is usually in this weird realm of relaxation that my thoughts are in overdrive and in my desperate need to get rest; my brain seems to overflow with memories, good ideas and an immaculate imagination. Depending on my mood it can be the perfect zone for joy but it can also yield some extreme terror and if I’m really bored I can slip into all kinds of awesome sexual lust. Even though I can navigate all three of those scenarios whilst in this state the one theme that permeates this collision of consciousness and unconsciousness is a still reflection on the notion that one day I’m going to die.

My imagination and sense of wonder will lock onto this thought no matter how happy or sad I am and wrestle with it until I all of a sudden just sink into the terrific paranoia of a life experience that I can’t fully grasp until it happens. My thoughts then start playing the counting game where I analyse my age and the distance from 30 to 60 and whether it will be a slow or quick transaction. I apply this maths to everyone I know and it can really start to feel like time is both an enemy and a friend.

When I shift out of the paranoia and into my imagination I start to wonder what is beyond me and how death is such an important part of life. I muse on the beauty of not existing and how one day I will shift from this world to complete nothingness. My imagination then takes the notion of this eternal nothingness and colours it with a potential landscape of the peaceful afterlife dream that I desire. I also reflect on how peaceful and satisfying death would be after living a satisfied life and achieving a satisfied mind. My higher self then whispers peace into my mind with any paranoia or fear left over simply being my human reaction to an experience that is both unattainable and unpredictable.

This is when my thoughts turn to just how important death is in terms of motivating human beings. It is at the centre of all our fears and no one is immune to the beautiful curse of this human uniform. I find death fascinating not because I am a morbid teenage angst vampire gothic human but because I love just how much it provides reason to how we interact with life and what kind of human we are. The idea of Death drives me to be more compassionate to family, friends, enemies and anyone I encounter, it is the one force that can drive us all together and also drive us all apart.

These thoughts of compassion cascade through all of my late night musings on death as I try to slip into unconsciousness and whether I wake up startled from these thoughts sighing to myself that “I’m going to die” or I open my eyes further to the beauty of life through the process of death doesn’t really matter, the point is it fires up my imagination and inspires me to live a life of compassion and imagination.

Last night, as I had these thoughts “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness” played through my headphones and provided the soundtrack to my escape.

As a band Smashing Pumpkins offer so much through the two hours plus of music on “Mellon Collie and The Infinite Sadness” and it will help assist you with all kinds of mind wandering. It is almost hypnotic with the way it pushes you deep inside your own mind.  The places it can take you when you’ve got the lights switched off are absolutely fucking tranquil. To lean on my introductory description for a moment, Smashing Pumpkins music has long been the perfect soundtrack to the experience I described, that relaxed reflection on death and your own mortality.

Smashing Pumpkins don’t just provide the vehicle for you to escape; they also assist in painting and naming your new landscape.

During my recent listening sessions of “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness” I found myself thinking about people and memories I hadn’t thought about for years. I started to swoon over girls I had attempted to forget due to how much pain it caused for me to remember them. I almost slipped into a vulnerable kind of forgiveness for all that love I gave but never received back from them. That is the kind of romance I love to muse on when I’m listening to music, I love that ache but I also like it to be vague and not direct.

Although “Mellon Collie and The Infinite Sadness” allowed me to reflect on the heartbreak it also put a focus on all those brand new crushes that I have and how beautiful and uncomplicated life is when you admire someone from afar, that thrill of a secret love. That kind of swoon is what oozes from so many of the tracks on this album.  Sure there is hurt inside of Smashing Pumpkins sound but there is also a healthy dose of fantasy.

This is when music is at its best, when it has the ability to sail through all of your emotional experiences sparking old memories whilst also inspiring an imaginary future full of colour and uncertainty. Great music will allow you to muse on Death with a healthy fascination (without all the morbid teenage angst) and give you the space to see the beauty in living and the power of your imagination. Escape is vital when it comes to consuming music as an art form, good music should take you away from yourself and into your own internal universe, a universe coloured with fact, fiction and beauty.

Over the course of “Mellon Collie and The Infinite Sadness” Smashing Pumpkins have managed to weave a journey that unfolds more and more with each listen.  If I was to classify the music on this album genre wise I’d define it as really great pop music because pop music should be progressive and heartfelt and have the ability to unfold something new every time you listen to it. Good pop music should be timeless and Smashing Pumpkins made a timeless record with “Mellon Collie and The Infinite Sadness” and it is full of timeless songs.  I personally find it impossible to drive them out of my head which again may come down to a resonance thing or the fact that Smashing Pumpkins are a pop band framed by the progressive dynamics of all the “alt-rock” related genres. I love it when pop music is progressive.

At the end of the day I attribute heavy metal to the success of this band and album because all great art has a heavy metal heart in some shape or form. That need for intensity and pure emotion over soda pop and bubble-gum will always triumph when it comes to pop music.  That rush that comes from dealing in extremes is what beats at the centre of a heavy metal heart and sometimes the people who live with this creative principle won’t even use a riff or anything rock n roll to prove it.

This is why “Mellon Collie and The Infinite Sadness” triumphed because Smashing Pumpkins favoured mood over the riff and that is always a refreshing thing to behold in the rock n roll world.

Look, I understand that a lot of you probably think that I’m being way too “deep” about something as simple as rock n roll and that I should just relax and have fun and all that type of thing. Yes, I get it and I understand that you would prefer that but the point is the music of Smashing Pumpkins is an intense ride for the free thinkers and chai tea drinkers. My kind of fun is listening to a band like Smashing Pumpkins and being ushered into a realm of deep thought. I get a great rush from that experience.

Some people get stoned or high in order to reach some kind of new realm, I don’t need any of that artificial stimuli I just need good music, great bands and a diverse record collection. The music of Smashing Pumpkins provides the kind of rapture I require.

I believe that great art needs to be a little bit spiritual in order to help us remember just how much beauty there is to this life. Perhaps music is my “Death Coping Mechanism” and my “Religion” and maybe I’m a deluded fuckwit but all that aside I can safely claim that the music on “Mellon Collie and The Infinite Sadness” helped me become a believer all those years ago and in 2015 I am still a disciple of Billy Corgan’s gospel.

 

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