Weekly Recommendation: Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness + Tonight, Tonight – Smashing Pumpkins

This week I’m giving out a double recommendation (sort of)! I’m talking about the first two songs off of Smashing Pumpkins magnum opus Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. Taken together, these two songs make up possibly my favorite intro to an album ever. The first song, titled Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, is a melodic piano piece that begins the album on a serene, beautiful, and sleep-inducing (in a good way) note. This segues into the second song (Tonight, Tonight), which picks up where the melody left off, adding the full band of guitars, bass, and drums, along with a powerful barrage of violins. These two songs are the perfect example of music being able to bring out deep emotions without needing words (although Tonight, Tonight, does have lyrics in it, the song would still be beautiful without them).

Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness is a very long album. It reaches over two hours long even on the shortest editions of it. It is an album that presents an epic journey and to start a journey like this you have to begin with something powerful, something that will make you want to listen for two hours. It is not an easy task. In my opinion, these first two songs make up the best part of the whole journey. The 2 1/2 minute title track intro is one of the most beautiful pieces of music I’ve ever heard. Needing no lyrics, or vocals at all for that matter, it evokes a feeling of longing, nostalgia, and peace. It may seem like a slow way to begin an album but it makes perfect sense when you hear the song that follows it up.

Tonight, Tonight was one of the many singles released in support of this album, and for good reason. This second song begins right where the first left off. The piano cuts out and the band and orchestra enter in full force. The different instruments seem to swirl around each other throughout the song, playing off of each other magnificently, but the true hero of this song is the orchestra, All throughout the song they provide a counter-melody to the vocals, often being so grand as to overtake the emotion in Billy Corgan’s voice. I’ve used the word “beautiful” too many times already but I’ll say it again because it’s the most accurate word. This song is truly beautiful.

While Corgan has never been known as a vocal virtuoso, his vocal performance on this song leaves a deep impression. The lyrics speak of an abusive childhood that he had to endure and the song is his older self telling him to believe in himself, knowing that he can make it through so he can live out the “indescribable moments of your life.” It’s an inspiring song, especially to those who suffer from a deep unhappiness or suffering. It is a song about holding onto what you love most and allowing yourself to persevere through the pain. Billy Corgan sells these emotions so well in his performance.

To open an album as epic as this, something powerful was needed, and these two songs make this the most emotionally powerful intro to an album I have ever heard. It is so good, in fact, that the rest of the album is spent trying to reach this level of power for almost 2 hours. Some would argue that there are better songs on the album, but none of them left their mark on me as much as this did. This is my go-to album when I lay down in bed to sleep. These two songs are calming, yet exhilarating in a way that is very rarely heard in music. These two songs, on their own, sparked my interest in Smashing Pumpkins and Billy Corgan’s genius.

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Weekly Recommendation: New Born – Muse

For this week’s recommendation I’m going with one of the band’s that really showed me the scope of what music could be. They are probably my biggest musical inspiration and are most certainly the band that helped me improve my guitar playing from simple 3-chord punk songs into something much more. They are Muse. This song, New Born, the opening track on their second album Origin of Symmetry, is one of the key songs that got me into Muse. I was originally going to review Knights of Cydonia, but I chose New Born instead because it is probably the song that has more nostalgic power over me. So let’s get into it.

The lyrics throughout the song speak of a future in which technology has advanced past humans and the body is no longer needed. Our brains are connected to a central system like a mechanical hive mind, as seen in the opening lyrics. As such human emotion becomes obsolete and we ourselves begin to metaphorically become machines.

The intro starts off with a mellow and mysterious keyboard part with Matt singing softly over the top. As soon as the progression ends there is a break that builds tension very quickly. This tension is broken by a piercing and heavy guitar riff based around the circle of fifths (for music geeks out there) and from here the song really begins to take off. The tempo picks up, the drums and bass are added in, and the song becomes more frenetic.

The verses kick in with the bass leading the charge in the instrumentation, and the vocals repeat the melody from the intro but it is sung with with much more fervor. From here on, Matt really shows off his signature vocal vibrato and falsetto. The solo section is a very fast tremelo picked part that closely resembles the keyboard from the intro. From there is another verse and chorus with Matt reaching up for a powerful E5 in falsetto. The signature guitar riff from early plays multiple more times to end out the song with a short and eery vocal outro by Matt.

New Born is one of those songs that will surprise you the first time you listen to it. At first glance it sounds like a dark piano piece, similar to a song like Sunburn off of the first album, but as soon as that guitar riff hits you are knocked out of your seat. That may be one of my favorite moments in music just because of the stark difference in tone and how cool that guitar riff really is. This is one of my personal favorite Muse songs and it’s a doorway into Muse’s ability to blend alternative rock with space rock, heavy metal, and progressive music. This is a song that shows how Muse are no strangers to experimentation.