Twenty-five years later, Smashing Pumpkins’ Mellon Collie still rocks

Across twenty-eight tracks and two sides, the Chicago-based quartet left an immeasurable impact on the music industry with a true modern masterpiece. 


On October 25th, 1995, the Smashing Pumpkins released the album that would define their career.

This album needs no introduction.

  I don’t know if there’s a rock record I love more than The Smashing Pumpkins’ 1995 tour-de-force Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.

  Across twenty-eight tracks and two sides, the Chicago-based quartet left an immeasurable impact on the music industry with a true modern masterpiece. 

  Everyone’s bound to have heard at least a part of Mellon Collie at one point or another. The album’s first three singles, “Bullet with Butterfly Wings,” “1979,” and “Tonight, Tonight,” rank among the band’s most popular songs. Whether you were a Pumpkins die-hard or were simply alive in the 1990s, there was no escaping frontman Billy Corgan’s passionate lead vocals.

  October 25th marked the 25th anniversary of the album’s American release, and in celebration of this occasion, I’ve decided to review the highlights of the Smashing Pumpkins’ magnum opus.

  Upon tearing through the glossy shrink wrap and popping in the first CD, “Dawn to Dusk,” you’re met with the title track. It’s a grand, cinematic piano instrumental that welcomes the listener into Mellon Collie’s world. Sometimes I wish I could listen to this track on repeat endlessly for the rest of time.

  All of a sudden, the calm instrumentals are torn away, replaced by the album’s true beginning: the bold orchestra of “Tonight, Tonight.” There’s something so magical about this song, and many others share my feelings; it’s often held to be the Pumpkins’ most impressive song. After a couple of rougher cuts in “Jellybelly” and “Zero,” the lead single “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” kicks in.

  From beginning to end, this one’s a wild and energetic ride. Anyone can sing along to the famous chorus, and rock their head to the driving electric guitar melody. Through and through, “Bullet” is a 90s classic.

  A few songs later, we flip to the opposite end of the Pumpkins’ spectrum with “Galapagos.” Where “Bullet” and “Zero” rely on thumping drums and gritty guitars, this one endears itself through a soothing, melodic lead and a devoted vocal performance from Corgan. 

  A major theme on Mellon Collie is the interplay between the Pumpkins’ loud and soft tendencies. They can blow your eardrums out, as is evident on “Tales of a Scorched Earth” and “X.Y.U,” but tracks like “Cupid de Locke” and “Porcelina of the Vast Oceans” sound like they were written by a completely different band. This contrast works to their advantage more often than not, but sometimes they just don’t know when to turn the volume down.

  Flipping over to the second CD “Twilight to Starlight,” the album’s massive radio hit rolls into town. Sometimes the radio-friendly songs on albums are dark, empty voids of commercialism, but “1979” flips the script in a big way.

  Nostalgic is the only word I can use to describe this song (which is saying something, considering it was on the radio nine years before I was born). From the moment the main riff shows up, you feel like you’re home again. Jimmy Chamberlin’s peppy drum kit is complemented by a crafty drum machine beat, which helps to shake things up.

  Even twenty-five years later, the song feels timeless. Although it was written in the 90s, and it’s about the late 70s, “1979” could belong to any moment in time.

  With the album’s penultimate track, Corgan creates another slow-burning ballad in “By Starlight.” It’s a heartfelt love song that holds the power to make time stand still. Every time it fades in through my speakers, I’m emotionally captivated by its warm glow.

  Just one song later, the moment I long dread arrives: the end of Mellon Collie. As the celestial journey through the starry sky concludes, I’m tempted to rewind and experience it all again.

  The unfortunate reality about creating such a renowned masterpiece is that everything else you make suddenly pales in comparison. The Smashing Pumpkins couldn’t escape this truth, as apart from their loyal fanbase, they’ve faded into obscurity in the years since the album’s release. However, their legacy as one of the 90s biggest bands is firmly cemented.

  As it celebrates its 25th birthday, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness will continue to be recognized as an album that defined an era.