By Cole Parkinson
The Smashing Pumpkins are one of my favourite bands of all time and with the announcement of their new 33-song album titled Atum coming next year, it’s an exciting time.
I haven’t particularly loved the last two Pumpkins’ records in Cyr and Shiny and Oh So Bright — both have some great songs, but overall, it’s been well under some of their prime records. But so far, I’ve liked what I’ve heard from the new album and I’m certainly excited to hear the whole thing come next spring. With that in mind, let’s go through my top 10 Pumpkins songs. And let me tell you, this is a tough one. Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness is my favourite album of all time and the Pumpkins have tons of great songs, so condensing it down to 10 was tough. There’ll be some hits, some deep cuts, and some fan favourites in this list, so here we go!
And because this is so hard for me, here are some honourable mentions: “To Sheila”, “Oceania”, “Thirty-Three”, “Jellybelly”, “Starla”, “Here is No Why”.
10. Bury Me – Gish (1991)
The debut offering titled Gish features tons of great tracks that introduced the masses to the Pumpkins’ sound. While it may not be the most recognizable song on this record, I’ve always really liked “Bury Me”. The guitar solos are killer and it really showed just how great of a player Billy Corgan is — the solo in the bridge and outro are two of my favourites throughout the vast discography. And really, the entire song is fantastic from a guitar perspective with tons of memorable riffs from start to finish.
9. Pinwheels – Oceania (2011)
Oceania is the Smashing Pumpkins’ most overlooked record and I think it’s third in line behind MCIS and Siamese Dream. That may be a hot take to some, but I think Oceania is chock full of great songs and “Pinwheels” is a modern classic. It’s a relatively simple song musically, but the emotion from Billy in the lyrics and vocal delivery really makes this a standout song. It’s also kind of a strange song in the fact you have electric guitars, bass, acoustic guitars, and synth but barely any drums. Either way, this is a great track on a fantastic album that was overlooked by casual Pumpkin fans.
8. Drown – Rotten Apples (2001)
Originally released on a film motion picture soundtrack, “Drown” became a fan favourite and still is today. There are a few different versions — the single version and the extended version — both of which are great. The extended version with the long solo is fantastic, but the single version is definitely more recognized. It also has the Pumpkins’ signature quiet-to-loud formula that was shown on Gish. Considering the song was recorded during that time, it’s no wonder it sounds like it would have fit perfectly on the album. When the distorted guitars and band come crashing in, it’s such a great build-up that pays off.
7. Porcelina of the Vast Oceans – Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (1995)
Another great example of going from quiet to loud is MCIS’s “Porcelina of the Vast Oceans”. Clocking in at 9:21, this is an epic song with tons going on. The band was really firing on all cylinders by this point, and Corgan was willing to experiment with his songwriting, which paid off completely. The intro is beautiful before the band busts in, led by a great guitar riff — and from there, the journey begins. While many point to Siamese Dream as being the “essential Smashing Pumpkins” guitar tone, I always think of MCIS and especially this song.
6. Muzzle – Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (1995)
Continuing with another MCIS standout, “Muzzle” is a great song where Billy wears his heart on his sleeve. The lyrics are really great, and I especially love when Billy delves into a personal topic (like critics taking digs at him and the band in this instance) and forms a great song around it. Jimmy Chamberlain is one of the great drummers of all time and this is one of my favourite performances from him. He lets loose from start to finish and all of his fills are huge.
5. Hummer – Siamese Dream (1993)
Siamese Dream is full of memorable songs from start to finish and it’s on many best-of lists. “Hummer” is one of those songs that I crank up as soon as it starts. Another song goes from quiet to loud and the distorted guitars sound massive when they kick in during the chorus. The use of op-amp Big Muff pedal on Siamese Dream are well known now, and it’s a guitar tone that is often mimicked but never truly duplicated considering home many layers of guitar were used in the final product. “Hummer” is another song that Billy really goes for it in the lyrics and it’s really about being yourself and living your life your way.
4. Stand Inside Your Love – Machina (2000)
Machina didn’t do well when it came out — it was billed as this great big concept album and it didn’t hit with the audience. The album features plenty of great songs though, and “Stand Inside Your Love” is still a staple to this day. While it was released in 2000, I think it sounds like it could easily be on MCIS and Siamese Dream. It has that classic Pumpkins sound — huge guitars, great drumming, and classic Corgan snarled singing. It’s a classic and I’m super glad they’re still playing it live.
3. Mayonaise – Siamese Dream (1993)
When you think of the quiet to loud Smashing Pumpkins sound, no song better demonstrates that than “Mayonaise”. If you ask any Smashing Pumpkins fan what their favourite songs are, “Mayonaise” will come up. It’s a classic song that was the diamond coming off Siamese Dream. Corgan has said the lyrics were written really fast and didn’t have a whole of meaning at the time, but to me, it’s around growing up and not knowing who you are in the world. Similar to “Hummer”, I get the sense the song is all about trying to make the most out of your life.
2. Thru The Eyes of Ruby – Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (1995)
This one could easily be number one, and it may be ranked number two, it’s really 1B. Musically, this is probably my favourite Pumpkins tune — it’s all over the place. There are guitar solos, there are spacey/dreamy parts, there are typical quiet to loud moments, and great drumming from Chamberlain once again. It’s another MCIS epic and I think it’s the best of the bunch in that regard. I wish they’d bring this one back to the live sets for extended periods rather than just every now and then.
1. 1979 – Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (1995)
This may be a cliche pick, but I don’t think I’ve ever fallen in love with a song as quickly as I did with “1979”. I get such a nostalgic feeling from this song despite MCIS coming out a month and a day after I was born. I don’t want to speak for Corgan, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s what he was aiming for here — the entire sound of this song feels like longing for prior days, but also looking to the future and how you can learn from the past. It’s not the most diverse song musically from the Pumpkins, but it’s so catchy and I really don’t know how it could have been improved upon. Sometimes simplicity in a song is the best thing possible and in the case, it was done perfectly.