Every band makesan album at some point that roots out the hardcore fans from the not-so-harcore fans. after having gathered a huge following with Siamese Dream (1993) and the gargantuan Mellon Collie & The Infinite Sadness (1995) The Smashing Pumpkins were on top of the world. but as many have learnt the hard way, it is possible to fly too close to the sun.
Following the death of a supporting musician, the subsequent firing of a drummer, and the death of a frontman's mother, most bands would have called it quits. But not workaholic frontman/songwriter Billy Corgan. Using several session drummers, but mainly a drum machine, Corgan went from rock superstar to Goth icon in a matter of months.
Adore is by far the most downbeat Smashing Pumpkins album. where Gish had swirling Grunge guitars, Siamese Dream had pop guitar hooks, and MCIS had its grandiose classicism, Adore is personified by dark synths and heavy atmosphere.
the album starts off with the acoustic/piano ballad To Sheila, a slow but suitable opener that sets the scene for Adore. Not as dark as the rest of the album, but by no means uplifting, To Sheila shows all the tricks that corgan uses in the album: multiple vocal tracks, unusual use of stringed instruments, and a slow, steady drum machine are all present here. To Sheila is almost the template for many of the songs on the album, such as Crestfallen and Shame
after a short breather, Adore kicks into goth mode with the single Ava Adore, a dark and twisted love song ("and i'll pull your crooked teeth, you'll be perfect, just like me.") Ava Adore personifies another type of song found on the album: the dark semi-techno tracks, brimming with menace. Corgan's unusual singing voice seems eerily at home in these tracks.
after the relatively bright Perfect and the guitar-meets-goth/pop/ballad scorcher Daphne Descends, Corgan serves up something new: Once Upon A Time is almost a throwback to the songwriting extravagance of MCIS, but still maintaining the signature Adore sound. and just when you though the album couldnt get any more versatile, Tear is an Operatic powerhouse of demented riddles and east-meets-west hooks (reminiscent of Led Zeppelin's epic Kashmir).
The bar stays raised right through the middle of the album (Crestrfallen, the dance-esque Appels & Oranjes,dark synth number Pug, and the Corganequely pompous The Tale Of Dusty & Pistol Pete)
the elventh track on Adore is a moment that should be long remembered in alt-rock history. Annie-Dog is a mix of subtle jazz drumming (courtesy of Matt Walker), Corgan's simple-yet-effective piano work, and lyrics which are as much poetry as they are music. the song is by no means downbeat, but it holds a mood unlike anything the Pumpkins have done before... neither dark nor light... almost solemn, but still vaguely optimistic. the lyrics just vague enough to leave you wondering, but still sepcific enough to make you think.
after another Adore standard (Shame), Corgan rounds up the album with a trilogy of powerful numbers. Behold! The Nite Mare! is an introspective dreamlike love song, the synths sliding around the piano perfectly, with a chorus as big as the name. For Martha is Billy's tribute to his late mother, and is mildewed with a powerful sadness that is never soppy or self-indulgent. indeed, For Martha is lyrically one of Corgan's most modest works. simple, but still powerful. and then, as if only to appease the many waiting pumpkins fans, the song breaks out into a power solo completely unheard of in any of the other songs.
the finale to Adore is the tear-jerking Blank Page. echoey pianos and a three-part harmony (with backing provided by guitarist James Iha and bassist D'arcy Wretzky) lead into a flourishing but solemn chorus, a moment of unadulterated sadness and strange relaxation.
Adore was a major change of pace for The Smashing Pumpkins. but it remains every part as good as its counterparts. while there are no moments with the goofy-rock-grin fun of Zero, (And admittedly the album gets depressing faster than anything by Nick Cave) Adore stands on its own 2 feet, and would be just as good, if not better, had Siamese Dream or MCIS never been released.
Corgan comes out of his shell here and the results are more suiting to both his vocal and songwriting styles. 4 1/2 stars.