The title track opens the set, and is a gorgeous solo-piano piece. With this introduction, it is clear that the album is intended to be the band’s magnum-opus. The song contains a wonderful melody, but more than just being “pretty,” it very effectively serves notice that this is an album which is meant to be listened to from top to bottom. I almost wish that Corgan had posted a notice on the cover to the effect of “Turn off your shuffle feature!” It definitely would have been in the form of a command, and I’ll bet he considered it.
There is really no need to shuffle songs though, because these 28 tracks go from highlight to highlight. From the gentle introspection of “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness” we move to one of The Smashing Pumpkins’ finest tunes, “Tonight, Tonight.” Despite all his rage, Billy Corgan was capable of writing some wonderful songs, the type of which made listening to the radio enjoyable again. I have always felt that his radio-friendly tunes were his best, but that is personal preference. The Smashing Pumpkins had plenty of fans who dug the angry young Corgan as well.
Speaking of the angry side of the songwriter, I sometimes wonder how many people out there still think “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” is titled “Rat in a Cage.” It contains one hell of a catchy couplet, “Despite all my rage/I am still just a rat in a cage.” Snarled in that oh-so-Billy way, with the band’s frenzied noise surrounding him, the cut is unforgettable.
As a matter of fact, there are a plethora of unforgettable songs here. The one that turned out to be their biggest hit single of all time comes on disc two, “1979.” For this remastered edition, Corgan wrote new liner notes, and his comments about “1979” kind of threw me. He says that there are elements of krautrock bands such as Can in it. For the life of me, I do not hear that influence at all.
Then again, Corgan has been known to overcompensate. I realize that krautrock is the apotheosis of hip in some circles, and I am guilty of clearing rooms with the sounds of Cluster and Guru Guru myself. But he really does not need to pump up the credentials of this hit single. It stands as an excellent tune entirely on its own merits.