Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness No one will ever accuse Billy Corgan, the Smashing Pumpkins' lead singer, guitarist, songwriter, keyboard player, arranger, auteur, and probably studio-floor sweeper, of thinking small.… Smashing Pumpkins Rock

Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness

Of course, the word ''fun'' still barely applies to Corgan himself. His lyrics read like entries from post-therapy session journals, concerned more with feelings than narrative. It's not uncommon to encounter lines like ''My reflection, dirty mirror/There's no connection to myself.'' Corgan continually questions his identity, his capacity for love, and any number of childhood traumas. ''I sensed my loss before I even learned to talk,'' he sings in ''To Forgive,'' a languid, head-in-the-clouds ballad. ''And I remember my birthdays/Empty party afternoons won't come back.''

By the album's tenderhearted final quarter, his emotional exorcism seems to have worked. Corgan ignores his own earlier advice on the album — ''love is suicide'' — and reveals himself to be a hopeless, and sometimes hopeful, romantic, serenading his better half with ''You're beautiful, as beautiful as the sky.'' Factor in Corgan's adenoidal voice, which worms its way out of his nose rather than his throat, and he comes across as a decade younger than his 28 years. He's the eternal angsty teenager, but with a gadget-heavy basement studio where he sets high school-notebook sentiments like ''Intoxicated with the madness/I'm in love with my sadness'' to sonic symphonies.

The hypercreative-loner image is a standard pop archetype, and it now applies to Corgan as much as it once did to visionary oddballs Brian Wilson and Prince. Like those former boy geniuses, Corgan uses pop to create his own hermetically sealed world. (Ironically, Corgan allowed the other three Pumpkins to contribute extensively to this album — as opposed to re-recording their parts himself, as he has done in the past — but the album sounds more than ever like a Corgan solo project.) Radio programmers and industry types can toss around the term ''modern rock'' all they want, but in Corgan's case, it truly applies. The discs incorporate bits of Corgan's beloved '70s rock — the sludge-metal of Black Sabbath, the guitar cathedrals of Boston, the Mind Games-period John Lennon. But the effect is never hand-me-down. Corgan's gauzy wall of sound-incorporating styles from thrash to classical but owing allegiance to none — is very much his own, and very much of this era.

Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness is more than just the work of a tortured, finicky pop obsessive. Corgan presents himself as one of the last true believers: someone for whom spewing out this much music results in some sort of high art for the ages. He doesn't seem concerned with persistent alterna-rock questions of ''selling out,'' and good for him: He's aiming for something bigger and all-conquering. For Corgan, rock is not the caravan of separate covered wagons it's become in the '90s. We're all just one big mass of folk to entertain with an endless variety of sounds and moods, and it doesn't matter if you're a member of the club or not. A

Originally posted Oct 27, 1995 Published in issue #298 Oct 27, 1995 Order article reprints