The Adore Rebirth

In July of 1998, The Smashing Pumpkins played a free show to an estimated 100,000 fans in downtown Minneapolis in support of their recently released fourth album Adore. One fan in attendance was a 17-year-old girl who had escaped from a Minnesotan correctional facility to catch the performance. She was apprehended after the show ended and not only is this story ridiculous and needs to be relayed to every Pumpkins fan, it goes to show just how mighty the band was when they released Adore-- a person fled her jail cell to see them.

After three hugely successful and influential records, The Smashing Pumpkins recorded and released Adore in 1998; an album that proved to be their most misunderstood and rests as their “black album” (either the end of their good or the beginning of their bad). The album’s title is even a play on words describing it as “a door” into their new style. Over 15 years after its release Billy Corgan returns to Adore with a deep catalog of lost recordings, b-sides, outtakes, demos and random goodies.

The deluxe edition runs over 100 songs and aptly confirms what mega-producer Rick Rubin (who at the time produced one song for the Pumpkins) said to NME in regards to the album back in 1998. “If you have a great song, you can make 20 different records out of it. This is one of the things I told Billy about the rest of the album. The songs are so good that there isn’t necessarily a right way to do them. There is no quintessential version, just the one you’re in the mood to make.” Corgan reacted positively to this advice and if “For Martha” is your favorite track you can hear its progression in three separate forms.

The most surprising nugget you can dig out of this reissue is the “Ava Adore” remix by Puff Daddy. He throws in some crisp acoustic guitar melodies and orchestral accompaniment into Adore’s lead single and completely revamps the gothic, dark track. It’s important to note that this rendition (though worth listening to) completely contradicts what Corgan was aiming to do with the album-- which was produce “arcane night music.”

Corgan’s liking to dark sounds came after a project with Shaquille O’neal fell through (this is surprisingly true). From the ashes of Shaq’s abandoned collaboration, came the electronic track “Eye” released in 1996 to critical acclaim and was featured in David Lynch’s film “Lost Highway.” In maintaining the track’s eerie and ominous atmosphere, Corgan approached recording songs for Adore in the same manner.

Following the Diddy remix the other track that earns notability is the Rubin-produced lost hit “Let Me Give the World to You My Love.” It’s a tight production and Corgan’s usual nasal cringe is substituted for a more baritone vocal approach. The chorus offers a delicious major-to-minor key transition that could have influenced a few 1,000 more listeners back in ‘98. Corgan said he left the song off Adore because he felt it didn’t fit well among the moody, bleak track list and he’s right. “Let Me Give the World to You My Love” wasn’t meant to be enjoyed in 1998 rather today when most of the fruits from The Smashing Pumpkins have fallen.

Adore will forever be characterized as The Smashing Pumpkin’s bastard child who was loved only by few, but that love was strong. Most fans didn’t give it a chance when it was released and Corgan (being the outspoken quote machine he is) blasted fans during a ‘98 Howard Stern interview. When David Fricke of Rolling Stone later followed up with Corgan about his comments, the bald-headed genie of youthful angst replied, “There’s definitely the moment where you go, ‘What happened?’ You have this feeling of desertion: Maybe they don’t love you anymore. But then you realize it’s not about that. It’s not a negative energy. You have not created the positive energy, whatever it takes-that kinetic connection.

“At the end of the day, if people do not connect with Adore, that is my responsibility. But in 15 years, if somebody pulls me over and says, ‘Adore is the best record you ever did,’ I’m gonna fall over laughing.”

Still King of Pop?

Posthumous: it’s one of those words that has me feeling a little giddy whenever I have an appropriate opportunity to drop it. How often can you say it outside the occasional discussion of posthumous compilation releases or in referring to a child born after the death of their father (another definition for the word). Beyond the little joys vocabulary can spark the Michael Jackson estate recently releasedXscape, the slain King of Pop’s second posthumous release—and just like certain words it’s a highly produced pack of bubble gum pop that provokes subtle joy.

MJ has been dead for exactly five years and in that time he’s made more money than I could ever fathom. Luckily for the people who made local news for publically mourning his death in 2009 the Jackson Estate is slowly leaking out rosy-polished outtakes, rarities and cutting room floor gems. They gave the worldMichael back in 2010 where they misattributed Dave Grohl and made a lot of us fee a little uncomfortable at the record’s apparent money-grabbing existence. Whoever is pulling the MJ property right’s strings is feeling no remorse for the heavy borrowing from one of music’s greatest entertainers.

But don’t let the backdoor greed get in the way of pop music royalty. These songs are truly wonderful and if you’re fan of Michael Jackson—whom am I kidding? —If you’re a fan of good time music, Xscape is an excellent option for your up-tempo delight. It just lacks a genuine, authentic feel.

“Love Never Felt so Good” is a bright, shiny jam that sounds as if Michael has gone all Thriller zombie and returned to show Bruno Mars how to do it right. Co-written by Paul Anka (the musical mad genius who wrote the score to Sinatra’s “My Way” and the Johnny Carson theme song), this album opener is an immediate pleaser. In staying consistent with the album’s odd behavior relating to Jackson’s legacy, Justin Timberlake contributes some vocals in one version of the song. What if MJ is up on the cloud pissed that the Wynton Marsalis to his Miles Davis is cramping his song?

Dug up from his Bad sessions from the mid 1980s, “Loving You” is a soft R&B funk that really shines in its demo version. Skip the Timberland hyper-produced album take and blast the Reagan-era ode to Michael’s favorite device: love. I was barely a twinkle in my father’s eye when this song was composed but it’s drenched in enough 80’s goo to make me want to comb my hair sideways to match my nighttime sunglasses.

Track 6, “Do You Know Where Your Children Are,” takes on a different meaning after Jackson’s 2005 child sexual abuse trial.

The most surprising track on Xscape is “A Place with No Name,” a wobbly sugar bite that was heavily influenced by the 1970’s soft rock band America’s tale of heroine addiction. Sharing certain lyrical structure and melody to “A Horse with No Name,” “A Place with No Name” is another track that sounds way better in its demo form.

Amazing isn’t it? Michael Jackson sounds the best when he has total control over his work versus having his renowned fans rework his leftovers.

Last May during the Billboard Music Awards the Michael Jackson estate took massive liberty over MJ’s image when they splattered it on a big screen in holographic form. A Call of Duty-resembling Jackson danced and sang “Slave to the Rhythm” while the audience cheered and looked both awkward and severely stunned. This is a good image to describe Jackson’s posthumous releases. They make you smile while simultaneously alienating pop music’s golden child.

Bringin' the Grunge

Eddie Vedder has two daughters. Excluding bassist Jeff Ament, all the members of Pearl Jam have children. The classic creators of the “Seattle Sound” still sound tough and are full of fascinating things to say— it’s just that their version of the f-word is now fatherhood.

Lightning Bolt is Pearl Jam’s 10th record and it’s 12 songs of robust dad rock. Pearl Jam worked with their longtime producer Brendon O’Brien who has a knack for making the music sound bulky but well produced. Lightning Boltstrikes with thunderous rockers (“Getaway” and “Mind Your Manors”) and, ever since 1993’s smash “Daughter,” Pearl Jam have never shied away from the ballads (“Sirens” and “Future Days”). Clocking in at 48 minutes, Lightning Boltwill serve both Pearl Jam and their fans well. A band that truly comes alive on stage, Pearl Jam will be able to nit-pick the golden nuggets of this record and ignite them while playing live and then leave behind the clunkers.

Pearl Jam’s philosophy on track listing has stayed pretty much consistent since their debut back in 1991— they’re all about starting with a one-two punch.Lightning Bolt opens with “Getaway,” an album standout, and then propels the momentum forward with lead single “Mind Your Manners.” The members of Pearl Jam are getting older and with that (besides Eddie Vedder’s receding hairline) comes wisdom. “Getaway” is lyrically rich filled with versus about achieving mature contentment. “And if you want to have to pray, it’s all right/ We all be thinking with our different brain get this off my plate/ It’s all right, I got my own way to believe, it’s okay,” howls Vedder over a riff-heavy instrumentation. Matt Cameron’s drumming bounces and pounds— recalling a little surf rock vibe.

The album’s first three tracks are upbeat and can blare loud enough to wake any sleeping infant but the record catches its breath on “Sirens.” A power ballad heavy on the voltage, “Sirens” is one of the more easily accessible songs on the album, but it has been sprinkled with Pink Floyd-esk fillers and breaks— and this was just what lead guitarist Mike McCready was aiming for. “I was at Roger Waters concert and was completely blown away by ‘The Wall,’” said McCready in an interview with Billboard. “I wanted to write something that would have a Pink Floyd type feel. We recorded a demo of it [but Vedder] didn’t put the lyrics on it until the second time we went back in…I heard them the night that he put them on there and they just brought me to tears. This is Ed at his best in my mind.”

The Beatles had Rubber Soul and Revolver, two records that live as siblings, andLightning Bolt and 2011’s Backspacer are Pearl Jam’s version. Title track “Lightning Bolt” would have fit well on Backspacer as well as “My Father’s Son.” Pearl Jam find themselves playing with a little sound experimentation on “Pendulum” with its fading guitar and downer atmosphere. If you listen to this record on Spotify, track “Sleeping with Myself” may trick you into thinking you’re about to hear a dumb ad for it sounds like an Albertson’s commercial. It’s poppy, catchy and has Vedder singing about sleeping alone at night.

Wilco will have to step aside and prepare for an influx in dad rock. This past year showed many big name-artists adapting with new levels of maturity and it’s ubiquitous in all forms of music. Jay Z and Eminem’s last two records both dealt with what happens when an artist grows up and progresses with their music. Pearl Jam are no different but they can still rock and (depending on how tired they are from changing diapers) roll.