Album Review: The Smashing Pumpkins – Adore [Reissue]

To understand Adore, one has to revisit 1995’s Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. The double album and follow-up to 1993’s critical and commercial diamond, Siamese Dream, would go on to draw comparisons to Pink Floyd’s The Wall, produce five chart-scaling singles, nab seven Grammy Award nominations (winning one), and be certified 10x Platinum in the United States. Suffice it to say, the Chicago troupe didn’t enjoy success; they were smothered by it. So, three years later and following a year-long, sold-out tour, The Smashing Pumpkins returned home destroyed rather than saved. While on tour, Chamberlin was shown the exit and taken to rehab after he and touring keyboardist Jonathan Melvoin overdosed on heroin together in New York City (the latter succumbing to the drug). Corgan, however, was dealt the worst blows: Not only did he lose Chamberlin, but his marriage was ending just as his mother died of cancer.

“At that time, there was just so much negativity, I just couldn’t handle it,” Corgan recently explained to “I just was not equipped to deal with it. To put this in context, 18 months earlier, I could do no wrong! We were selling out arenas, we were on television, the cover of Rolling Stone. And the next thing you know, 18 months later, you’re persona non grata. It’s not just persona non grata to the world, when you’re persona non grata with the record label, that’s a cold wind that blows up your back.”

(Read: The Very Best of The Smashing Pumpkins)

And so, Adore comes to represent what follows at the end of the rainbow, when the path to glory turns to rocky ground and meanders back into the creepy thick. Looking back, it’s easy to see how the Pumpkins stumbled into this murky pocket after enjoying the spotlight for so long, but at the time, it was all too humbling for an artist like Corgan. But true artists revel in the valleys and fear the peaks, and that’s exactly what Corgan did. To borrow a handful of words from Friday Night Lights‘ Coach Taylor: “Every man at some point in his life is gonna lose a battle. He’s gonna fight and he’s gonna lose. But what makes him a man is that in the midst of that battle he does not lose himself.” Rather, the band’s mastermind found himself again.

Come May 1998, Corgan and co. remerged from the darkness as industrial goths with a twisted new single in “Ava Adore” and an accompanying video that worked more as a mission statement than any sort of promotional item. Directed by Dom and Nic, who had just paired David Bowie and Trent Reznor together a year prior for “I’m Afraid of Americans”, the one-take video proved fashionable enough for accolades at that year’s VH1 Fashion Awards and iconic enough to frame the Pumpkins in a new light — or, rather the dark. But really, “Ava Adore”, with its sexy electronic loops and stomping percussion, simply evolved the DNA that made Mellon Collie‘s “1979” their greatest hit. Hell, their second single, “Perfect”, became the song’s spiritual successor, so much so that its music video is, in fact, a sequel to the events that transpired in the iconic video for the 1996 hit.

(Read: Our Interview with Billy Corgan)

Following “Ava Adore” and “Perfect”, however, the general public started to turn away from the Pumpkins, and that’s what makes the album even more tragic. Despite a glowing review in Rolling Stone, written by Greg Kot no less, Adore failed to make any sort of commercial dent. In hindsight, the dramatic ballad “Crestfallen” might not have been the best choice as a third single, given that eventual fourth single “To Sheila”, the energetically drowsy “Appels + Oranjes”, or even the graceful “Shame” were just sitting there waiting. Nonetheless, it was a lost cause. The album had no “Zero”, there wasn’t going to be another “Bullet with Butterfly Wings”, and whatever nostalgic magic “1979” held over their generation had simply washed down the drain. As Kot wrote in the aforementioned review, “[Adore] isn’t just a transitional record; it’s a complete break with the past.”

Sixteen years later, those words ring true. Having now heard Machina/The Machines of GodMachina II/The Friends & Enemies of Modern Music, and even Corgan’s disastrous solo album, TheFutureEmbrace, it’s obvious this “complete break” was always Corgan’s intention. In fact, if you go way, way back to the ’80s, it’s the same sound that gave the guy his start, whether it was with his Florida outfit, The Marked, or the original demos he tracked early on with guitarist James Iha, material he described in 1994’s Vieuphoria as “gloomy little goth pop records.” That description could apply to all of Adore, an album constructed from the architectural blueprints of past goth pop masterpieces, what with its intimate, heart-on-its-sleeve poetry (“For Martha”, “Blank Page”); ambient, tortured wailing (“Behold! The Night Mare”, “Crestfallen”); and self-destructed rage (“Ava Adore”, “Daphne Descends”). Licking his wounds, Corgan did what everyone else does in the pits: He returned to the past, while keeping an eye on the future.

(Read: Smashing Pumpkins Get Dissected)

What makes the reissue so fascinating, then, is seeing how that madness all came together. Similar reissues for Gish, Siamese Dream, and Mellon Collie have all proven quite exceptional, but Adore‘s return haunts with intrigue and vitality. It’s not just a hodgepodge of forgotten material; it’s a story finally ready to be shared. And it’s told through 107 tracks broken down into six different albums. Whoa. There’s the remastered LP, its mono counterpart, and then four discs that collect Corgan’s demos (“In a State of Passage”), the outtakes (“Chalices, Palaces, and Deep Pools”), even more outtakes (“Malice, Callous, and Fools”), and select live cuts (“Kissed Alive Too”). It’s no doubt an arduous task, especially when another version of “For Martha” pops up, but it’s essential to anyone looking to unravel the Pumpkins lore.

A few highlights include the Rick Rubin-produced “Let Me Give the World to You”, an early acoustic rendition of “Appels & Oranjes” titled “What If?”, a banjo-led rendition of “To Sheila”, and a soft demo titled “Valentine”. Actually, it’s the non-electronic material recorded at Corgan’s Sadlands home studio that offer the set’s most intimate experiences. On another demo titled “Sparrow”, Corgan gets so close to the mic that it feels as if he’s humming the words right beside you. These demos are hardly rough, either, strong enough to be carved out for a lost acoustic album. Consider them, instead, loose artifacts of Corgan’s mindset at the time, a doorway into his barest emotions before they were fully realized and awash in synthesizers. However, one moment that’s worth skipping to is Sean “Puffy” Combs’ inspired remix of “Ava Adore”, a cinematic reimagining that tailors Corgan with Sting-approved tapestries — simply put, it’s interesting.

(Watch: Billy Corgan on Rock It Out! Blog)

But “interesting” is so closely intertwined with hindsight, a finicky attribute of any reissue. After all, on a long enough timeline, everyone comes around to ingenuity, and that’s what these packages intend to propose. While Adore isn’t exactly genius, it’s certainly of the same fabric: a tortured portrait of tortured artists that will always remain tortured. The difference between this collection and, say, the future reissue of the really polarizing Machina albums is that the Pumpkins were still inches away from the ledge, pushing back against whatever force was attempting to hurl them off. This struggle offered one last glimpse of the Midwestern boy everyone hated to love, as opposed to the man everyone would love to hate. For a few hours, it’s nice to feel the bitter love again.

Essential Tracks: “Let Me Give the World to You (Rick Rubin)”, “To Sheila (Early Banjo Version)”, “What If? (Streeterville Demo)”, and “Valentine (Sadlands Demo)”


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