In which the Pumpkins conclusively prove that great art comes from great pain. Purportedly on the verge of suicide, a desperate, perhaps somewhat deranged Corgan penned “Today,” a facetious, goodbye-cruel-world lullaby that, when draped in the band’s trademark cloak of mellow fuzz, becomes a triumphant middle finger to the crippling effects of depression.
There are many points on their 1991 debut, Gish, where the Pumpkins seem caught between their early metal influences (Black Sabbath, Judas Priest) and the art-rock band they ultimately aspired to be, but “Snail” isn’t one of them. The track is perhaps the most obvious foreshadowing of the ambitious plans Corgan had for his group: sweeping, unapologetically romantic, and cinematically paced, its verse, bridge, and chorus structured in such a way so that the ultimate catharsis—in this case, a climbing sub-melody full of unbridled optimism—comes bursting through quite dramatically in its final minute.
Snuck between the lumbering “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” and the even more monstrous “Fuck You (An Ode to No One)” on Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, “To Forgive” is a brief but solemn respite from Corgan’s encroaching demons. The use of slow, shuddering guitars and broken organs, a jangly collection of instruments that gradually breaks down as the song unfolds, mirrors Corgan’s own digression, an adult’s battle against embittered childhood memories.
Mellon Collie’s de facto opener captures the entire spectrum of the double album’s symphonic bravado. And yet it’s the quiet moments that make “Tonight, Tonight” such a great song, particularly the sad acoustic arpeggios of the verse where Corgan laments the untruths of time, like an aging man spying his face in the mirror and attempting in vain to find some meaning in his wrinkles.
“Frail and Bedazzled”
Like their muses, the Pixies, the Pumpkins are virtuosos when it comes to dynamics, delivering both loud and soft parts in an elegant tandem for maximum dramatic effect. The high-tempo B-side “Frail and Bedazzled” displays the full range of their precision: Corgan sings high, and then low, then by himself with the music cut out, until all the guitars come crashing back in for the coup de grace, a screaming, high-energy conclusion made all the more powerful by the calm that came before.