Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Smashing Pumpkins- Adore

We all have comfort albums from our youth, I think. Albums that maybe we never listen to but can't bear to part with. Maybe it's something you're a little embarrassed of owning, too, and every time you see it on the shelf you think "my, how far I've come." But when you're really going through a hard time you'll turn off all the lights, sneak into a closet, turn off your cellphone, and listen to that album over and over, remember all the other times in the past you gave yourself over to it to help escape for a little while. These kind of albums aren't guilty pleasures, necessarily. Rather, they're more like comfort food: something very familiar to you that you don't eat very often but it just makes you feel warm and safe when you eat it.

Well, Adore is one of those for me. I've owned it since it came out and either it gets better with age or I just cherish my time with it more and more because it allows me to be nostalgic. The misunderstood, depressed, and incredibly young version of me that bought this seems to rise up inside me when I hear it now. Even flipping through the booklet takes me back--how the dark, gothic looking photos stirred something inside me, as did the see-through top of D'arcy, which was incredibly sexy and incredibly frightening at the same time. The whole album seemed to be giving me a glimpse of the future, when I would be a misunderstood, depressed, and slightly older man who had experienced the deep emotions and poetic musings of Adore. And I have.

The initial press for Adore suggested it would be an electronica album and the first single 'Ava Adore' furthered this, unfortunately. It was like a halfway point between the band's guitar based alt. rock and electronica as was in fashion from '97 to '98. Except that the album itself was mostly moody and introspective, neither rock nor electronica. If the word 'gothic' ever applied to a Smashing Pumpkins album, it does to this. Even when there are electronic touches they are far from club anthems or brainy IDM. Frequently the band uses a piano and/or acoustic guitars. Furthermore, when there are electric guitars, they re not used as lead instruments. The one exception I can think of being the epic 'For Martha', which builds and builds until the towering solo erupts from the mountaintop.

The cynical critic in me wants to take a few cracks at this album. So I'm going to put him in a room with the 10 Year Fan part of me and let them go.

For starters, at just over 72 minutes Adore is ridiculously long.

But...I really like all the songs; sometimes I love long albums and just getting lost inside the world they create.

Well, still, Adore is backloaded with the longest, most pondering songs. All the good stuff is up front.

But...I really like it that way. It's like how the three intense, long, psychedelic songs on Modest Mouse's The Moon & Antarctica make up the middle of the album. Only in this case the album is getting more deep and deliberate as it goes, making the come-down of 'Blank Page' and '17' all the better.

Well, 'The Tale Of Dusty & Pistol Pete' doesn't really fit the album. It's lighthearted and downright poppy.

But...that's precisely why it works so well on the album. It's surrounded by the intense 'Pug' and the desperately sad piano character study 'Annie Dog.' And it's a nice bit of appropriate levity in a heavy, dense album--this is hardly as upbeat and catchy as you think.

Well, Billy Corgan is kind of a jerk and some of his lyrics here are garbage.

But...OK, he is kind of a jerk, but I think Adore is his most consistently good set of lyrics ever. Yes, it's sad and gothic, but in a good way.

Well, Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness and Siamese Dream are better and more popular, so nyah!!

But...they may be more popular, sure. They may get way more critical acclaim and may show up on more lists. But Adore is secretly the best Smashing Pumpkins album. It's the odd duck of their discography and not the place for newcomers to start. Yet it's so good that it's one of my comfort albums; so good that even when I argue with myself over it I end up loving it.

Well, at least I got the last word in.

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