Infinite Sadness and (Seemingly) Infinite Music
This is the Infinite Jest of music albums, a behemoth box set of classic, remastered cuts geared towards the most devout Smashing Pumpkins fans. Over the past few years, the band have been progressively reissuing albums from their catalog. Aeroplane Flies High follows the re-releases in 2011 and 2012 of Gish, Siamese Dream, Pisces Iscariot and Mellon Collie as well as The Infinite Sadness. But even by those standards, this reissue is a colossal monster. The Aeroplane reissue boasts separate remastered versions of the original 1996 box set, with five (five!) LPs in deluxe and standard editions, remastered by Bob Ludwig and expanded from the original thirty-three songs to include a whopping 104 tracks. There are unreleased demos, live recordings, and alternate versions of the band’s most iconic tracks, as well as some more obscure tunes, accompanied by a DVD with a live recording from a 1997 concert in the deluxe set. And that’s not even it—the set also comes with a booklet of discursive notes from Billy Corgan and David Wild. Fangirls (and boys), rejoice.
Reissuing an entire catalog like this points to the Pumpkins’ place in alternative rock history, cementing them as an omnipresent influence in the ’90s and 2000s alternative scene. Who could forget Billy Corgan’s dark, nasally voice whining, “The world is a vampire,” over an ominously slinking bass in the opening seconds of “Bullet with Butterfly Wings”? This happens to be, appropriately, the first thing you’ll hear on Aeroplane.
While the reissue set features remastered versions of familiar tracks like “1979,” “Zero,” and “Tonight, Tonight,” there are also acoustic versions, instrumental versions, alternative takes (like the strangely eerie, compelling country-fied variation of “Said Sadly”), recordings of rehearsals, as well as a thirty-four minute live recording of “Silverfuck” from a concert held in Maryland. This is certainly paradise for hardcore devotees and music aficionados: multiple cuts and takes, preserved demos, and classics fine-tuned and dolled-up by Bob Ludwig’s masterful hand and the subtly refining capabilities of modern technology. The remastered disc for Bullet with Butterfly Wings contains a slew of demos for songs like “Milieu,” “Rings” and “Ugly.” Plus, half of both Zero and Tonight, Tonight feature live recordings from a 1995 concert held in Chicago, where you’ll get to experience the band’s energy and improvisation on “Stumbleine” and “God.” The sprawling box set also includes a cover of Blondie’s “Dreaming” and Muddy Waters’s “I Just Want to Make Love to You.”
But the biggest thing this massive box set has going for it is nostalgia. Sure, Smashing Pumpkins were and are important musicians in the world of alternative music, and the original material for these albums sold thousands of copies and won over the shriveled, sad little hearts of alternative kids everywhere in the ’90s as they sniffled into their plaid sleeves. Instead of mulling over the past by reissuing their entire catalog and dwelling on successes from almost two decades ago, the Pumpkins would perhaps do better to move forward, acknowledging their past while also creating and focusing on new material. Instead of relegating themselves into a slightly redundant deluxe collectors’ item with a hefty price tag, they should embrace the present and do something new. Corgan’s still got it— he just has to use it. And word’s out that a new Pumpkins LP is indeed on the way.
The Aeroplane Flies High Reissue should certainly satisfy the needs of even the most dedicated Smashing Pumpkins fans and keep them occupied for a while—six and a half hours, to be exact, or at least until the next reissue comes out.