If I could only take one album with me for the rest of time it would be Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness by the Smashing Pumpkins. The second in a run of three brilliant albums, this is the band at their absolute peak. Some argue that it contains too much filler and would be better served being cut down to a single disc, but I wholeheartedly disagree. The sheer size and sonic variety are part of the albums' charm. From delicate ballads to punishing rawk, from sparse whispers to sweeping symphonic epics, this has a bit of everything, and discarding half of it would be unfathomable. The production is top notch - you can tell a lot of care and effort went into crafting it, and the ambition really shines through. The band set out to make one of the most epic records of all time, and at least in the context of modern rock I believe they succeeded. I can't think of many other albums in the last 15 years that felt so grandiose and monumental.
Most important though is the way Mellon Collie makes me feel. Listening to this album instantly reminds me of when I was 17 or 18 and all the feelings that go along with it - how everything mattered so intensely and so passionately, and how what now seem like the simplest little things could feel so massively important. Stirring up those raw emotions is frequently inspiring for me, and it motivates me to work on my own projects (whatever they may be at the time), rekindling a desire to create something grand and epic myself.
Listening to Mellon Collie's two discs is like taking a journey through your youth; the highs, the lows, the angst, the passions, the ambition...it's nostalgic and revitalizing at the same time. The journey is never boring, and by the time the final song fades out I'm almost sad that it's ended.
My favorite parts of the record:
The beautiful piano opener and closing coda which form a brilliant bookend to the album.
The transition from the opening title track to the sweeping strings of "Tonight, Tongiht."
The manic buildup and release at the end of "Tonight, Tonight."
The guitar and drum climax in "Jellybelly."
The beautiful arpeggios in "Galapogos," as well as the buildup to the final chorus.
The dreamy fade in to "Porcelina," coupled with the crunching guitar. A 9 minute song that's not boring for a second.
The punishing fury of "Bodies"
The spacey acoustic coda of "Ruby," reprising the title track
The calm before the storm of "Stumbleine," such a sparse acoustic whisper
The watery guitar fade in of "By Starlight"
The full-band harmonizing during the bridge of "Farewell and Goodnight."
There are more, of course, but those are the absolute highlights for me. I know Corgan's voice really bothers some people to the point of not being able to enjoy the band, but I like that he can effectively vocalize the emotion behind the songs.
This is my favorite record of all time. And if you love the album as much as I do, be sure to check out the B-side boxset The Aeroplane Flies High. Over 50 songs were written for Mellon Collie, and only 28 made the record. There's plenty of gems that didn't make the cut. Too much filler? Should have been cut to a singe disc? After listening to the Aeroplane set, I think they could have made it three discs without dropping the quality. Aeroplane standouts that could justify a 3rd disc:
The Aeroplane Flies High
Marquis in Spades
Mouths of Babes
Set the Ray to Jerry
Medellia of the Gray Skies
The Last Song (really love this one)
It's really amazing to me just how many great songs this band churned out during this period