Adore [CD/DVD] [Deluxe]
Left without a drummer after Jimmy Chamberlin's dismissal, the Smashing Pumpkins took the opportunity to revamp their sound slightly -- which is what Billy Corgan claimed they were going to do on their fourth album anyway. Adore, however, isn't a drastic departure. Using dream pop ballads and the synthetic pulse of "1979" as starting points, the Pumpkins have created a hushed, elegiac album that sounds curiously out of time -- it's certainly an outgrowth of their previous work, but the differences aren't entirely modern. Whenever synthesizers are added to the mix, the results make the band sound like a contemporary of the Cure or Depeche Mode, not Aphex Twin. That's not necessarily a problem, since Adore creates its own world with layered keyboards, acoustic guitars, and a rotating selection of drummers and machines. There's none of the distorted bluster that cluttered Mellon Collie and none of the grand sonic technicolor of Siamese Dream. Adore recasts the calmer moments of those albums in a sepia tone in an attempt to be modest and intimate. Only Billy Corgan would consider a 74-minute, 16-track album a modest effort, but compared to its widescreen predecessors, it does feel a bit scaled down. Still, Corgan's ambitions reign supreme. This is no mere acoustic album, nor is it electronica -- it is quiet, contemporary art rock, played like a concept album without any real concept. Its very length and portentousness tend to obscure some lovely songs, since all the muted production tends to blend everything together. But even with its flaws, Adore is an admirable record that illustrates the depth of the Pumpkins' sound, even if it ultimately isn't a brave step forward.
[Like all of the Smashing Pumpkins albums before it, 1998's Adore received a ridiculously generous super deluxe reissue in the new millennium. The 2014 box set contains no less than six CDs, along with a DVD capturing an entire concert given at the Fox Theater in Atlanta, Georgia on August 4, 1998. Naturally, the first disc is given over to a remastered version of the proper album, while the second contains the mono mix of the album, which is what was initially released on vinyl (it makes its CD debut here). The third disc is where the unreleased material begins to come in: there are a host of demos, from Sadlands and CRC -- these are the rough versions -- whereas the fourth disc, bearing the subtitle "Chalices, Palaces and Deep Pools," digs into atmospheric shimmer: instrumental snippets, versions "reimagined" by Matt Walker in 2014, plus a few demos and stripped-down mixes. The fifth disc, called "Malice, Callous and Fools," continues in this vein, serving up some more Walker reimaginations, a Rick Rubin version of "Let Me Give the World to You," an alternate vocal on "Behold! The Night Mare," and some B-sides, plus the soundtrack contribution "The Beginning Is the End Is the Beginning." Finally, the sixth disc -- punningly called "Kissed Alive Too" -- rounds up radio sessions and live performances from 1998, including a pair of performances live at Mancow's Morning Madhouse (a late-'90s zoo crew flashback if there ever was one), of Berry Gordy, Jr's "Money (That's What I Want)" from Dodger Stadium. To complain that this is too much is to miss the point: of course it's too much, but there are things of worth on each disc. As the finished album comes together, it's possible to hear the different directions Adore could've gone, along with hints of its legacy and, on that last disc, a final blast of the Pumpkins in their late-'90s glory. All of that makes it worthwhile for the hardcore.]