The Historian: Smashing Pumpkins Discography, Vol. 2 (1995)

Smashing Pumpkins MCISBy Spencer. How do you top an album as big as Siamese Dream? By going bigger. Now most rock stars would have just stopped there, but with Billy Corgan, nothing can ever be so simple. He had to make an album so big that nobody could ever top it. What else could explain a double album so overflowing, so all-over-the-map, and so ludicrously named as Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness?

In the fall of 1995, the Smashing Pumpkins reached a crucial turning point from which they could never go back. No, I’m not just talking about Billy shaving his head. Or the unnecessary “the” they added to the front of their name. (Though I’m sure we all slept easier knowing, finally and definitively, that “Smashing” was an adjective and not a gerund). The turning point achieved on Mellon Collie was the completion of Billy Corgan’s lifelong mission to become the biggest rock star in the world. And he did it by simultaneously embracing every caricature of rock stardom – and, whether intentionally or not, every caricature of himself – that he could cram into 28 songs.  Continue reading

The Historian: Three Debut Films – Scorsese, Spielberg, & Malick

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By Spencer. Sometimes a film is less important for what it is, and more important for what it signals to come. Thanks to Turner Classic Movies, I recently had the opportunity to see the debut films of three of my favorite directors: Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, and Terrence Malick. What struck me is how, even in the formative moments when these auteurs were still learning their way around a camera much less a set or an editing room, you can still see the unmistakable signature they would each imprint on their future body of work.  Continue reading

The Historian: Smashing Pumpkins Discography, Vol. 1 (1991-1994)

Smashing Pumpkins 90sBy Spencer. I’ve often wondered what it would be like to meet Billy Corgan, the man who almost single-handedly provided the soundtrack to my teenage years. The songs that bury themselves inside you at that age – the ones you listened to in your bedroom, over and over and over, until you didn’t even need to hear them anymore because you could play them note-for-note in your mind; the ones you blasted from the stereo of your first car; the ones that made you play air guitar when nobody was looking; the ones that still recall the faces of once-perfect girls and broken hearts and the first desperate fumblings of love – those are the songs that never leave you. Even now, in my early thirties, I can still listen to Smashing Pumpkins (and yes, in my mind, they will always be Smashing Pumpkins; forget the extraneous “the” they added to their name in later years) and instantly feel that sublime twinge of pain and comfort called nostalgia, and know that nothing in my life from here on out will ever mean as much to me as the music of those years.  Continue reading