It’s been nearly eight months since the reissue of The Smashing Pumpkins’ Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness double album. Out now is the The Aeroplane Flies High, a singles, B-sides, and jam sessions collection to go along with Mellon Collie. Originally released back in 1996 in a miniature vintage record case packaging, the 33 tracks offered some solid hits as well as a brief look into the behind-the-scenes magic of one of the ’90s most polarizing alternative bands. What the reissue lacks in packaging it makes up for in bonus content. The new release boasts 104 tracks on six CDs and one DVD.
The singles from Mellon Collie are represented in “Bullet with Butterfly Wings,” “1979,” “Zero,” “Tonight, Tonight,” and “Thirty-Three.” Those along with the rest of the original 33 tracks have been remastered by Grammy Award-winning sound man, Bob Ludwig. In addition to expanded versions of Aeroplane’s original five discs, a sixth disc contains live recordings from the 1996 Mellon Collie tour, while the DVD content is taken from a July, 4 1997 performance in Belfort, France and presented in Dolby Digital. While there is room for criticism in the packaging and pricing of the set, the quality of the audio (including the live tracks) is impeccable.
Gone is the original flip-top box, replaced with a more standard gift box package. Also gone are the jewel cases. The new box set is designed to look similar to the original, but now with embossed foil wrap and twinkle-stock cardboard CD/DVD jackets. A small 46-page book, with liner notes written by Rolling Stone’s David Wild, is also included. Smashing Pumpkins front man Billy Corgan contributed the cover art to the book, along with extensive track-by-track notes for the original release’s 33 tracks. Fans of the band should appreciate this extra insight.
The real insight is, of course, in the music and there is a lot of music in this box set. For those that know the history of the band, Mellon Collie marked either the end of the beginning or the beginning of the end of the original Smashing Pumpkins. The supporting tour in 1996 resulted in the deaths of a young fan (at a concert in Ireland) and their touring keyboardist (Jonathan Melvoin, from a heroin overdose) and the arrest of their drummer (Jimmy Chamberlin) for drug possession – he was subsequently fired. Luckily, most of what’s here was recorded before the string of tragedies and offers insight into how the band worked in its prime. Of course, not everything is successful and the misses are documented here as well. Their attempt at covering The Cure’s “A Night Like This” is well off the mark, despite the band’s obvious admiration.
There is more to love than otherwise in this opus, especially for real Smashing Pumpkins fans. Even if there are other albums you like better, The Aeroplane Flies High offers insight that can’t be found elsewhere. While the pricing on all of these reissues warrants scrutiny, there is certainly enough content here to ease the pain. The lower-cost packaging of the new version is also discouraging. It’s really only if you piece out the collection that you can justify that price. As a collection made up mostly of singles and jam sessions, this reissue of The Aeroplane Flies High is really only for the most ardent fans.