Smashing Pumpkins

Virgin, 1998

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


I understand that Billy Corgan and the Smashing Pumpkins were the darlings of alternative rock in the early '90s – and I admit running out to buy a copy of Siamese Dream on cassette because I liked “Disarm” and “Today”. But I found their follow up album Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness to be overblown tripe that would have been better suited as a single disc, clipping out all the filler contained therein.

That fact, combined with the shocking contrast that “Ava Adore” was on alternative radio, kept me from listening to Adore, the Pumpkins' fourth studio effort, for almost 20 years.

This turned out to be a huge mistake, on my part. Written in a time of upheaval in the band, as well as while Corgan was going through losses in his personal life, Adore proves to be a surprisingly introspective and more gentle album than anything the Smashing Pumpkins had recorded to that point. And while there is not the cohesiveness I would have liked in such a project, it is a stronger album than its overall sales suggest it to be.

Recorded after the dismissal of drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, Corgan was not only mourning the loss of his bandmate and friend, but also the loss of his mother and the breakup of his marriage. You could, perhaps, expect to hear the pent-up rage similar to the primal screams on parts of “Bullet With Butterfly Wings,” but instead, Corgan and crew craft songs that, while embracing a little more of an electronic sound (though hardly a techno or electronica album), serve the purpose of being cathartic without being out-of-control pissed off.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The first thing that strikes this listener about Adore is that it sounds like an album that was sequenced in such a way that it was intended to be listened to in one sitting. This is not a singles-oriented disc; it truly is an experience, something the listener should pick up on from the opening track, “To Sheila”. And since it leads right into “Ava Adore,” I have to admit that my feelings about the song have drastically changed since I first heard it on Q101 in the Chicago area back in '98. Coming off songs like “1979” and “Zero”, it is not a great choice for a single. But, when taken as part of the whole Adore experience, it not only works, it turns out to be a much better song than I ever gave it credit for.

You could, in fact, say the same about Adore – though I question whether Corgan would agree with me on this, even 19 years removed from its release. With tracks such as “Daphne Descends,” “Annie-Dog” and “Blank Page” all challenging the listener to accept a new world of melancholy unlike nothing that groups such as Nine Inch Nails prepared you for, this quite honestly could have been Smashing Pumpkins's best disc. (And, since I haven't listened to all of their albums, at this stage, for me? It is.)

Yet something still feels disjointed among the 15 tracks here. It's not that songs such as “Once Upon A Time,” “Tear” and “The Tale Of Dusty And Pistol Pete” are bad; it's just that they sometimes don't feel like they're the perfect fit to the picture as a whole.

Still, if that's the only sin that Adore is guilty of, then it's a much better disc than the fans have given it credit for over the years, and is waiting to be rediscovered. (In 2014, Adore was released in a humongous 6 CD / 1 DVD set… and now I can say I'm curious to hear it.)

Rating: B-

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