Saturday, November 29, 2014

Video Of The Week: The Smashing Pumpkins

I could have chosen any of at least 10 videos to feature The Smashing Pumpkins, and I really almost went with one featuring Melissa Auf Der Maur on bass, and also hesitated putting their best song up (Bullet With Butterfly Wings), but ultimately I went with this one, released a couple of weeks following my 15th birthday, for Today, by acclaimed director Stéphane Sednaoui:

Despite the band being from Chicago, the Pumpkins are generally lumped into the ''grunge'' category for mixing quiet verses with heavy and loud choruses, and having lyrics that lean heavily towards the very personal but often incorporating tremendous amounts of sarcasm, such as this track, claiming ''today is the greatest day I've ever known'' and yet dealing with extreme depression (perhaps even to the level of being suicidal).

A sharp contrast to the subject matter is the use of bright colours, and all the extras making out all over the desert throughout the video.

At the time of its release, I remember thinking the Siamese Dream album the track is from to be better than Nirvana's Nevermind, but not as enthralling as Pearl Jam's Ten; both Seattle bands would release tremendous albums later in the year - In Utero and Vs, respectively - that would blow Siamese Dream out of the water, and it took until the follow-up record, the two-disc Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness, for me to finally claim the Pumpkins had made a masterpiece.

I liked that the Pumpkins, like Pearl Jam, took their influences everywhere and anywhere, including wearing their love of 1980s alternative on their sleeves. You can definitely hear Billy Corgan channeling The Cars in many overdubs of power chords, as well as 1970s arena rock; on Mellon Collie, you can tell he was inspired by U2's turn to studio doodling (à la Zooropa and Achtung Baby) as well as what Trent Reznor was able to accomplish with Nine Inch Nails, particularly off The Downward Spiral - and Siamese Dream is the low-fi, pre-dating, low-budget version of that. And while Disarm and Mayonnaise may be the best-written pieces on it, Today is the best-produced straight-up rock number on it, and the one that had the most impact - despite my soft spot for Cherub Rock's opening minute.

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