There are some albums that we are just scared to think about the atmosphere that surrounded their creative process. Albums that had to meet expectations and success, continuity, and musical genius. Unlike the business world where expectations and pressure are the daily routines, in the world of music, you have to be inspired to create and you have to be satisfied with the result...
This is the story of "Adore", the fourth album by "The Smashing Pumpkins", which was released on June 2, 1998
The insane success of the previous album, "Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness", gave "Smashing" the official "stamp" as a significant influence on the alternative rock world of the 90s, and established its status as a successful international band. But as in many stories and reviews, we have written, also in this case things began to take a different turn and instead of a bright and rosy reality everything became dark and gloomy.
At the end of the tour of the previous album, the prominent man and leader of the band Billy Corgan overwent a difficult period. As a matter of fact, it wasn't just "difficult", because looking from the outside it is hell on earth !!
The tour and the three successful albums played him completely, he felt musically drained and his creative part went through a process of suppression and shutdown. His best friend in the band and his writing and creative partner, drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, was addicted to drugs and alcohol and reached the point of no return, leaving Billy Corgan no choice but to fire him out of the band. More than that, Billy Corgan's marriage broke up, when the divorce process did not go well. In addition, he lost his mother who died of cancer. How can one even rise from such turmoil when his starting point is already very low from the beginning?
(Photo: Yelena Yemchuck)
If you have read our reviews of the band's three previous albums, you probably know that their creation has taken a heavy price on Corgan, which was on a verge of a nervous breakdown and in one case even made him think of suicide. Many rock stars in Corgan's position would have probably succumbed to drugs, alcohol, or even taken more extreme measures, to calm their minds a bit and cast out their inner demons. But luckily Billy's case was different...
Before the band went on to record the album, they release two significant songs, the first was "Eye" which was specially recorded for the soundtrack of David Lynch's film called "Lost Highway". The second song called "The End Is the Beginning Is the End" was specially recorded for the movie "Batman & Robin". In both cases, Corgan wanted to break the classic rock pattern of bass/drums/guitars and travel in sweeping electronic districts. And indeed, both songs were massively influenced by electronic music and heavily used as electronic elements. By the way, the second song even won a Grammy, and maybe that's also what pushed Corgan to choose the direction of the next album.
The band members put together about 30 demos for the album. After several shows the band made in the summer of 1997, they met with producer Brad Wood who had previously worked with Corgan, at some studio in Chicago, to start recording the album. The situation deteriorated very quickly and the dynamics quickly changed from group effort to individual. Corgan was not happy (again) with the contribution and creativity of the rest of the band, and the producer did not contribute to Corgan's confidence or inspiration, this time either, so after six weeks Corgan decided to stop the recordings and change the atmosphere.
The entire band changed location and moved to Los Angeles, where they resumed work on the album, this time with Corgan being the sole producer and lead singer. The band rented a house in the city to strengthen the ties between them and bond a partnership. But even this attempt did not succeed when the sessions became heavy and slow, the technical side overshadowed the work and required a lot of time and fuss. The drums were also a challenging part, without a dominant and leading drummer like Chamberlain, the band recorded some of the songs on electronic drums, and some of the songs were recorded by several different drummers including Matt Cameron ("Pearl Jam", "Soundgarden") and Joey Waronker (Beck). Even the legendary producer Rick Rubin Came to help and produced one song (which eventually was not included in the album). In short, a complete mess.
Corgan said he wanted to address a wider audience. To satisfy the fans who have already matured, but also appeal to those younger ones. So he decided to use electronic elements, acoustic elements (lots of pianos), and very little distortion.
While Corgan may have consciously decided to go in that direction, we are inclined to believe that he was just droned in there, by all the tremendous chaos going on. We believe that this album reflects exactly all the sorrow and pain that surrounded its creative process. It's an album that screams pain and conveys sadness, from the moving and chilling opening song "To Sheila" to the rocking instrumental section "17" that seals the album. If you ask us, the very choice to open the album with such a melancholy song is meant to convey a message about what happens next and the upheavals that Corgan's soul went through. And think about it, how many alternative rock albums do you know with such a quiet opening?
(Photo: Facebook official)
So Corgan and friends decided to put the heavy guitars and thunderous drums aside, replacing them with synthesizers, drum machines, acoustic guitars, and lots of pianos. How much? At least five of the album's 16 songs are led by piano. The vibe of this album exudes more dark and electronic than alternative rock. You could even say that the two singles released from the album initially, "Ava Adore" and "Perfect" are the only ones that somehow come close to rock, in terms of rhythm and atmosphere.
The album received positive reviews from critics but failed in public opinion. It went straight into second place on the Billboard 200, but a week later it totally crashed and failed miserably. The two singles "Ava Adore" and "Perfect" were unsuccessful and received little airing on radio stations. In order to try to promote the album, the band released two more singles, "Crestfallen" and "To Sheila", but these also did not succeed on the radio stations and were removed very quickly from broadcast rotations.
Corgan claimed he was to blame for the result and that he was wrong when he told the public that the band intended to release a "techno" album, creating a misconception. He noted that if he had told the public that this was "Smashing's" acoustic album, then the album would have been a huge success.
Despite the reviews and the lack of success, despite the melancholy and gloomy atmosphere, we actually really like this album. It has songs that penetrate the heart and soul, it has exciting and chilling moments. Listen to the opening song "To Sheila", to the howling guitars that remind us of "Minimal Compact" in the song "Daphne Descends", listen to Corgan's cries of pain, especially with the word "Fallin" repeated towards the end of the song "Once Upon a Time", to "Tear"'s psychedelic keyboard sound (a song that was the first choice for the "Lost Highway" movie but rejected in favor of "Eye", or to "Crestfallen"'s piano and Corgan's singing, or the modern requiem in the 8-minute piece "For Martha" that Corgan dedicated to his mother.
There are quite a few albums whose power comes from the heartbreak, whose cry comes from the silence, and whose melancholy can encourage us in difficult moments. "Adore" is one of them. Without making comparisons he easily joins our family of depressive and sad albums, like "Mercury Rev's" "Deserter's Songs", Beck's "Sea Changes" and more, a series of albums that we tend to pull out at specific moments in life and draw physical and mental strength from, so we can get back on track of the bumpy ride on the life's railroad...
Still, we will leave the decision to you in this case... Click for YouTube Playlist