Among prominent bands of the 90’s, Billy Corgan, Jimmy Chamberlain, D’Arcy Wretzky and James Iha stand up as one of the better and more groundbreaking ones. As the Smashing Pumpkins they had a mix of angst, polish, and on point instrumentation that make them stand out among their contemporaries. Seeing them live was vastly disappointing the times I witnessed it, but they easily make up one of the best on-album bands I’ve ever heard. Today we talk about their top ten best songs. Hope you enjoy!
10. Frail and Bedazzled, Pisces Iscariot
So after the massive success of “Siamese Dream,” “Pisces Iscariot,” a B-Sides record not as good or in depth as the previous album was released. It actually did better initially than SD, but that’s neither here nor there. This song in particular though, showcases them much in the same way sonically that they appear in the groundbreaking former effort. It has all the technical aspects in terms of playing that you’d come to expect from the extremely proficient Corgan and Chamberlain, and because of that, it begins our countdown of the Smashing Pumpkins Top 10.
9. Geek U.S.A., Siamese Dream
This record, for the record, is easily the best work the band ever did, in my opinion. The whole album has this slick yet abrasive polish over it, and much like the rest of the tracks, “Geek U.S.A.” roars to life with a great drum opening right before the guitar comes screeching in and amps it up to a raucous level. The song speaks highly to my need to head bang when I was the appropriate age, but all these years later the song still really rocks. It’s placement near the end of the record also helps to keep up the momentum while still adding in gorgeously layered textures after all of the chaos has ignited our fire.
8. the Everlasting Gaze, MACHINA/ The Machine of God
Following the epic nature of “Mellon Collie,” the band began what I like to refer to as their Corgan-centric experimental phase. This song, while at first glance is typical Pumpkins, really pushes the limits of what the world had known of the band before it. The crunchy guitar part, and the slight synthy vibe permeating through the track show yet again that they were more than content with exploring new chasms in their sound. The chorus also is one of the better ones in their catalog, and the backing tracks and ominous keyboards all add to the jumble in a really cold, mechanical way.
7. Siva, Gish
“Gish” in my opinion is an rarely mentioned album that made possible the success of “Siamese Dream.” With each album they grew and grew, but without this initial step I doubt they would’ve come as far as they did. Finding us at number seven on the Top Ten Smashing Pumpkins tracks, “Siva” explores depths that most up and coming bands don’t really get to navigate. That’s just how good this band was in the early stages. Even snippets of the track showcase how well the can juxtapose soft ethereal backgrounds with in your face guitar focused rock. For me this song really helped prove to the band that they could mix those two elements, which ultimately helped to create “Soma” and “Porcelina of the Vast Oceans,” which we’ll get to shortly.
6. Disarm, Siamese Dream
Even if you’re a casual SP fan more than likely you’ve heard this hauntingly tumultuous song. I mean it's only been playing on modern rock radio stations for the last two decades or more. For me though I always remember hearing this in the car with my mom and being instantly drawn to the message of melancholy in the song. The song, meant as a message to Corgan's parents for the way he was treated, resonates with a multitude of people in similar situations, and that’s what draws me to the song, even today. Corgan pours his emotions out in “Disarm” more than in any other song I’ve heard from the band, and the echoing line of “Killer in me is the killer in you” serves as a cold sobering reminder of how much the anger our parents have is transmitted internally to us and how we have to fight to vanquish it.
5. Bodies, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness
This probably isn't the most obvious choice, but infact this song kicks more ass than most of the songs on this magnum opus of a record. The heaviness is palpable throughout, and Corgan's howls perfectly fuse the instrumentation together and make the song an instant headbanger with much power and stamina behind it. Showing up very early on the records second disc, “Bodies” marries some of the more intense music the band ever created with a very eerie background that ultimately brings us back into the doom and gloom that make the song a killer intense song. For years it’s been one of my favorite “MC&TIS” tracks, and today it lands at the halfway mark of the Smashing Pumpkins Top Ten songs.
4. Cherub Rock, Siamese Dream
Everything from the opening drum beat to the flawlessly executed guitar opens makes the song what it is, which is a powerhouse force that brilliantly opens up what I think is their best, most well rounded album. It’s lo-fi in a somewhat abstract way, but overall the sound coming from the speakers speaks volumes on where the band was during this area. Billy’s vocals are crisp as well as murky, but it’s this back and forth that helps make the track so intriguing to me. Few bands could accomplish this back in the day, but it seemed as though the Pumpkins did it with ease. I mean, you have to be doing something right when you’re the headlining band of Lollapalooza over the Beastie Boys right?
3. Porcelina of the Vast Oceans, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness
I think this song is only possible because with “Soma,” off of “Siamese Dream” the band figured out they could make long songs that weren’t difficult to get through. The Pumpkins have a few lengthy songs, but this is my favorite, without a doubt. The lush backgrounds of the music give way over time to a bombastic signature sound only they could achieve. And I mean all four of them, not just Corgan. It’s nearly three minutes before vocals come in, and while they’re great, the real story here is the perfection in terms of mixing. Corgan’s vocals are done in such a way that they just peek out during the verses, but come full force during the epic choruses. Jimmy Chamberlain meanwhile, is able to navigate the drums like a sail covering the black waters of the night. Among the amazing songs found on “Mellon Collie,” “Porcelina of the Vast Oceans” is among the most remarkable and triumphant.
2. Soma, Siamese Dream
And finally as we approach the number one spot, we’re treated to a wonderful monument of a song. “Soma,” number seven on “SD” but number two on this countdown, is one of the more mythological sounding songs I’ve ever heard from the band, I say mythological not in the Hercules way, but more in the way of being surrounded and living a beautiful, hazy life in a wonderfully plentiful garden that shines brilliantly in the starry night. The opening movements are splendid, and when the guitar exposes itself to the world, the song is truly part of the atmosphere. What they do here is incredible to say the least, and it’s because of its epic nature that it lands at number two on the Top Ten Smashing Pumpkins songs.
1. Today, Siamese Dream
They may have started to wane as the 90’s drew to a close, but there was once a time when the original Pumpkins were simply incredible. Especially on “Siamese Dream.” Even more especially on this track, “Today.” From the very first time I heard the opening guitar notes, and the overall nostalgic lyrics, it was like I was transported to a different world. It was easily my favorite song period for years and years, and even if I hear it today, I still take the time to enjoy. All of the band really delivers a potent, classic alternative track. Corgan, Chamberlin, Iha, and Wretzky all bring something simple and pure to the song, and in the end, that’s why maybe the band worked so well, until Corgan officially took over and axed everyone. Having said that though, Today isn’t simply a great song by a great band, but it serves as one of the happiest musical memories i have from my teenager years, and it will likely always hold a special place for me. Thanks for reading!
What is it about raising your fists in the air that make a song better? I’m not sure, but it’s scientifically proven to make a song better. Now I could’ve went a lot of different ways on this one, but I chose to include more well known, crowd favorite type songs. They all aren’t crowd favorites, but all of them are amazing to belt it out to. Well, maybe not all of them… you’ll see what I Mean..
Mastodon, Tread Lightly, Once More ‘Round the Sun
It’s hard to top a killer album opening song, but they always seem to start off every album in wonderfully epic and big ways. “Tread Lightly” off the most recent “Once More ‘Round the Sun” is another solid example of the band blowing up sonically to introduce a new record. The vocals are harrowing and hopeful, and even enlightening at moments. Seriously it’s one of the most uplighting metal tracks I’ve ever heard, and because of this it finds itself on this list. Making a song like this is tricky, especially in the genre they’ve been lumped in with. It’s an eye opening example of what metal can do, and along with the brilliance of the instrumentation, it never gets old and played out. If anything it gets better with every listen.
Florence & the Machine, Shake it Off, Ceremonials
Whether you are new to Florence or not, one thing is immediately clear when you finally get exposed to her. Her ability to send a message and use her powerful voice to soar is hard to match in modern alternative music.This song,”Shake It Off,” has stadium anthem written all over it, and you can tell that’s what they were after. It gives power to powerless people,and makes the trials of life easier to circumvent. The listener can relate to the lyrics “It’s hard to dance with the evil on your back,” because we’ve all been there. Now, while I don’t really think the devil exists, the negativity we all endure is real, and the song presents us with a mantra to triumph over difficult things.
Nine Inch Nails, Just Like you Imagined, the Fragile
Among some of the best tracks on the great record “The Fragile,”, “Just Like You Imagined” manages to hold it’s own with a bombastic rush of heaviness and depth that any old school fan of the band is sure to love. It opens by slowly building up the whirlwind, but then the deliberate drums kick in, and you’re off on an instrumental journey few bands are able to match. It’s a testament to how well organized and focused Reznor is, and the way it combines everything from drumming to synthesizers, and even sporadic piano make it even better. It even manages to be an instrumental song while not. One lone scream comes in at the end of the song, but it hardly ruins the song. Instead, it brings everything into perfect harmony and wraps it up in a tense, tight bow of aggression.
Queen, We Are the Champions
Is there a more perfect band to sing along to? I can’t think of another one off the top on my head that can bring everyone together so easily, but there’s a reason why people love this band. May’s guitar shines, but the true star of the band was never anyone but Freddie Mercury. His bravado, confidence, and unbridled passion for the music and words he’s belting out make him one of the most beloved musicians of all time. I mean, think for a second how many people have raised their fists in the skies during sporting events and belted this song out after their team wins? Hundreds of thousands, maybe millions. Queen’s “We are the Champions” above all else remains the song for ultimate victory, and I doubt another song will ever be able to top it.
Outkast, B.O.B., Stankonia
This song from the ATLiens isn’t only their best, but it might be the song of the 2000’s. Released in that distant, long ago year(2000), the song has a twinkle at the start, but before long it’s bass heavy and fantastic. There isn't a better song to throw down to, and it leaves you breathless from dancing. That’s the trick to it. You can’t breathe, and your body is giving up, but the power of music and fun is compelling you to keep going. It’s almost as if Father Merrin is telling you “The Power of Rap compels you.” You have to give major props to Andre and Big Boi. With “Stankonia” they had arrived in the mainstream rap game, and among the heavy hitters of the time, they rise to be better than them. Sure many people consider the likes of Eminem and Jay Z to be better, and while they aren’t as well known as those two, is there any band or artist in their genre except Kanye who's done more for the furtherment of thought provoking rap music? Certainly Em and Jay aren’t. Outkast’s “B.O.B.” is the rap song above all others, trust. Thanks for reading!
Today, as I embark on an out of town trip, it seemed like a good idea to highlight some of my favorite records to listen to while on the long road, wherever you may be going. This list isn’t as easy to make as you’d think. Some records are excellent, but many don't translate to long listens while cruising. It’s just that simple. These five records aren’t just some of my favorite of all time. They lend themselves perfectly to fun, being free, and sometimes epic car sing-alongs. I hope you enjoy, and hopefully next time you take a long trip you can jam some of these!
Arcade Fire, Suburbs
Maybe it’s the length of the record, or the fact that many songs talk about roads being constructed and torn down, but this album has always struck me as perfect driving music. It has it’s high intensity moments, like the breakneck pace of “Month of May,” but it also has it’s slow and steady moments like “The Suburbs” and the closer “Suburbs II.” The album has everything you could want, and it molds itself to losing yourself on a highway, as you reminisce about being a teenager driving all over the city with your friends, with the road as well as your life right in front of you for the taking.
the Avalanches, Since I Left You
For years I wanted to make a short film set to this record. The basic idea was to involve a grand-prix style race through treacherous mountains and vivid imagery in the background Obviously that never occurred, but I still love this album as a whole. Another one you can lose yourself to, it’s perfect for the highway because it’s varied in style, and the free flow of music and very short breaks into songs make it quick and simple to get into it. An album perfect for driving is one that allows you to forget your problems and also not be concerned about what track number you’re on. “Since I Left You,” the sole album by the Avalanches, is such an album, and perfect for a early afternoon drive through gorgeous scenery.
the Beatles, One
I’m well aware this is a record made up of “Hits,” but it makes the list for one very specific reason. Years ago I hated my job at a car dealership. It was just terrible in every way, but quite often I was allowed to go on errands. Still I was able to bring customers to and from if they needed to get somewhere. Having this record in the car not only helped my sanity and likely kept me from blowing that place up, but every customer I drove around loved hearing this record. That’s when I realized how universal this band actually was, and how much people of all walks of life love this incredibly perfect band.
Queens of the Stone Age, Songs for the Deaf
This list wouldn’t even exist if not for this record. These other four are merely other albums that fit the mold, but I would’ve never gotten the idea if not for this record. “Songs for the Deaf” starts inside of a car, and as we navigate in a perpetual drunken or drug induced haze, we encounter many oddball radio stations in the valley. The album is easily the heaviest on the list, but it’s also one of the best. Songs like the opener “You don’t think I’m worth a dollar but I feel like a Millionaire,” pivel drive like a car with the spirit of Satan, while a track like “the Sky is Falling” is perfect for having the windows down and the cool desert air in your hair and wiping through the car as you dive deeper into the unknown.
Jay Z & Kanye West, Watch the Throne
Every now and down you need some bounce in your car, whether you’re traveling hundreds of miles or just a quick around town. This monster of a rap album, featuring two of the best MC’s of the last 20 years is perfect for throwing down in the car. “Niggas In Paris,” is a classic from the first seconds, while “Otis” blows away and lights up the night sky. “No Church in the Wild,” also serves as a good mid tempo sailing song. The one rap record to make the list has to be a special one, and between Kanye and Jay they managed to make not only an all around great record, but one that so easy to sing and dance to as you pass up every slow car on your way to funtown.
Thanks for reading!
Ok, Let’s talk T-Swift guys. This topic might surprise some of you who know me well, but for the last year or two there’s been no better “Guilty Pleasure” than Swift herself. While normally I cringe at the “GP” tag, it seems to fit for many people who are fans of hers. Especially when the fan is question is thirty-three year old straight man. The thing is though, I genuinely couldn’t give less of a shit what anyone thinks of my musical tastes. My number one rule is if the song has a great hook, and is easy to get into, I’m a fan. And plenty of her tracks have that certain something. Moving on...
Now, it wasn’t always so. When I first heard of her, it was the butt of a joke from Joel McHale in “the Soup” regarding her many relationships and how seemingly every song was about a failed relationship. Back then it was hilarious to me, but gradually over time I found myself listening to songs here and there as they crept over the radio. Ok, it’s not terrible I thought, but I still wasn’t super interested beyond the typical “Oh she’s very hot” thoughts here and there. Then the Grammys happened and that song “Trouble” came on and it was pretty cool. Slowly but surely I found myself not cringing when it came on and eventually I admitted to people around me, and most importantly myself that she wasn’t half bad.
Then, with the release of 1989’s lead single ‘Shake It Off,” shit got real. And I mean real. The song is insanely catchy and the video is even more upbeat and fun. After that “Blank Space” took over the nation, and everyone was officially on the Swift bandwagon. Here’s why she’s had so much success in my opinion: What she does for pop music of this generation is crucial. It’s more heartfelt than most standard pop affairs, but the production and technical aspects of the tracks are still superior. Now obviously it helps that she’s been making boatloads of money for awhile now, but “1989” is a modern pop masterpiece up there with the Jackson’s and Madonna’s of their own eras. It’s brilliantly recorded, and song after song brims with the confidence of a seasoned vet not only trying but easily accomplishing the feat of making pop music that everyone can relate it.
Certain events in your life sway you to certain things, and for me the catharsis presented on the album and the topics discussed really struck a chord with me, almost entirely because of a difficult and somewhat unexpected breakup of my marriage. It’s a terrible thing to go through for all parties involved, but in those weeks I found myself belting out Swift’s songs with reckless abandon and zero fucks of who would judge me or what they might think of me. Yes, I’m a grown ass man I fucking love Taylor Swift.
And it’s not even just because of the music. The more I hear about her the more I like her personal choices and the things she does for fans. All you have to do is google “Taylor Swift is good to her fans,” and you’ll see how much she cares about them. She routinely gives gifts to hardcore fans, has had families come over for Thanksgiving, as well as multiple big buck donations for worthy causes. Musicians often seem untouchable, especially when they’re as big as Swift, but for her it genuinely seems like she loves giving back, especially to the people that help make her so damn popular. It’s refreshing to be honest, and more people should really use their fame to make other lives better.
In conclusion, she’s a modern pop music icon whose capable of seeming larger than life right along with being down to earth and worthwhile. We need more entertainers like Taylor Swift, and hopefully she keeps making more and more engaging records for everyone to dance around to. Thanks for reading.
Halloween in New Orleans is easily one of the coolest things you could ever do. It’s very much my favorite holiday, but typically we don’t have set plans beyond walking around and finding naughty nightmarish adventures. This year though was different, which was an amazing reprieve from the norm. After venturing through the French Quarter and local spots overrun by non local types, it was time to head across town to see one of the best metal bands of the last few years, Mastodon.
Having seen them a number of times, one of which was as recent as May at Shaky Knees in Atlanta, this show ultimately proved to be further example of how solid they are in their craft. Opening with perennial awesome opening song “Tread Lightly,” the band continued to slay the crowd for nearly two hours. Mastodon isn’t one whose very big on between song banter, but for the crowd at the Civic it didn’t really matter. Each and every song was filled with enough sound and force that the crowd could build from it and give the energy right back to the band. I couldn't really tell the size of the crowd upstairs, but downstairs was packed, and being in the air and spirit of Halloween only helped to make the intensity of the night that much more palpable.
The band, all dressed in various off kilter costumes, rocked out through seventeen songs before you could even take a breathe. Seriously you see so many bands fill a show with bullshit fluff it’s invigorating to see a band literally rock and roll. The only time they even stopped to speak was after the very last song, and to thank us for an incredible night. When a band shows up and chooses to let the music speak for themselves rather than chit chat, it only adds to the value of the show, and on Halloween they gave the crowd more than their money’s worth.
After killing the end of the set with classics like “Megalodon,” “Crystal Skull,” and of course the mighty song that is “Blood and Thunder,” I expected it to be over, but of course, they had one last surprise with the appropriate choice to close the show with “Halloween.” Like every other track of the night, it soared and rocked out, and it only made the late night even better. What a terrific night. Thanks Mastodon for rocking, and thank you for reading!
Animal Collective has always been a pretty interesting band musically. Multiple records explore various styles, concepts of writing, and weird ambient noises often filter in and out, even on their more guitar oriented albums. Above all else though, their 2009 released album “Merriweather Post Pavilion” stands as the peak of accessibility and also flat out best. Today I add another remarkable record to the Albums of My Life series, with Animal Collective’s seminal “Merriweather Post Pavilion.” Let’s go!
With the brief departure of Deakin having just happened, AC as a whole decided to create an album less focused on guitars and more sample heavy and electronically experimental. The results are immediately clear. One of the best opening songs of the aughts filters slowly through the speakers, and our first glimpse into this MPP world is the low fi otherworldly textures of “In the Flowers.” Panda Bear is heard clearly, but there’s so much more to the song than the vocals. At the halfway point, we’re flown into what I can only describe as a night sky full of vibrant colors and for a moment the world is at peace. That’s what happens when you’re able to leave your body for a night. It’s a perfect introduction to the record, and easily one of my favorite songs the band has ever recorded.
So where do you go when the first song is the best thing you’ve ever heard from a band? For the AC guys, you layer more textures on the subsequent songs and make songs that don’t rival completely the moments of the opening track, but rather expand on this new gorgeous world they laid out for us. The second track, “My Girls” glimmers like the sky atop a beach in mid day, and the backing vocals help give the song a warmer feeling among the electronic based instrumentation. So many albums have a weird quality to them, and this record certainly does, but it’s more of a straightforward weird than other artists, and that’s where the fandom for this record comes from. It’s one of the most forward thinking records of the decade, but time hasn’t slowed its brilliance down in even a slight way.
A lot of these songs for some reason also remind me of the bioluminescent forest we all saw in “Avatar.” And I mean that in a wonderful and powerful way. I can very easily picture this record being played in a thick forest, searching for adventures unknown, the sun mostly hidden by the deep shade of mother nature. One of the best examples of this is “Summertime Clothes.” As dusk settles in, the thumping of the synthesizers are full blast, and again the vocals are able to bring you into another earth that we’re not used to seeing. The song itself is very upbeat and gleeful, and it speaks to the love of wanting to “Walk around with You.” It’s a very jolly song, even by AC standards, and it reminds me both of the forest as the sun sets and of hanging out in a drunken haze.
The next stand out monument of the record, “Blush,” finds us a little past the midway point, and more or less is able to bridge the gap between the beginning and the end in a mid tempo groove reminiscent of a day spent smoking things under tents of shade on a pure white beach that sits atop crystal clear blue waters. I’m telling you, go back and listen to this record and see for yourself how well these songs are positioned to be listened to in various outdoor environments.I haven’t heard anything about this being the purpose of the band, but for me it sets the stage for various outdoor adventures.
Just look at songs like “Taste” and “Guys Eyes,’ which literally feature textures that could very easily be outdoor noises and atmospheres. It’s all through the record in precise and easily obvious ways. Both of these are low key electronic songs that move the momentum into a more chill direction while still enveloping the listener in blissful ignorance of whatever they might be missing during the duration of the record.
To end though, the party blows out of control as we’re treated to the very Beach Boys esque “Brother Sport.” Seeing this song at bonnaroo 2013 was a highlight of the whole weekend, as was the entirety of their set. The song is upbeat in a non typical way, but it’s very playful still, and perfectly wraps up the vividness displayed time and time throughout the nearly fifty-five minute record. I don’t know if Animal Collective will ever put out an album as great as this, but if they do i’m sure it will stand the test of time just like MPP. Thanks for reading!!
Landon Murray is a published writer and an avid lover of music, books and films. He's also a lover of the New Orleans Saints. He was born in 1982 and has a chainsaw tattoo on his arm.
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