The 10 best Smashing Pumpkins songs

Smashing Pumpkins in Chicago circa 1991
Smashing Pumpkins in Chicago circa 1991 (Image credit: Paul Natkin\/WireImage)

I first heard the Smashing Pumpkins when I found a CD of theirs in my brother’s bedroom. I didn’t really have a music taste to speak of before discovering them. My mum used to play a lot of great music in the car, but I only got into grunge, heavy metal and hard rock when I found this stack of CDs.

Here are my 10 favourite songs…

10. TONIGHT, TONIGHT (Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, 1995)

If this was an actual playlist, Tonight, Tonight would be a brilliant closer because it’s that epic kind of ender. It’s a rock song, but it’s such a weird rock song, which has this really dreamy vibe to it. It’s as good a number ten song as any I could think of, to be honest. It’s a killer track.

9. GEEK U.S.A. (Siamese Dream, 1993)

This is a meat and potatoes rocker, but with a twist. I love the guitar work on it. If it came on your car stereo whilst you were taking a drive with the dudes, you’d be well on your way. I was torn between this one and Cherub Rock, but Geek U.S.A. just took it in the end.

8. TARANTULA (Zeitgeist , 2007)

What a fucking wicked track! This is just before Billy went completely solo, I guess. The lyrics are so good, it’s got a killer groove, and I love the guitars. There’s a lot of Billy’s noodling on it as well. It sounds like he just messed around on his guitar over a take, and they kept it in. It’s an awesome song.

7. TODAY (Siamese Dream, 1993)

The kicker is the chorus with this song. It’s one of the greatest choruses ever written. Weirdly, I’ve never really read into the Pumpkins’ lyrics like I have with other bands. I think that’s because the melodies are so strong, and I just enjoy the vibe of their songs taking me where they want me to go rather than reading what they’re exactly about. I like not knowing, and just listening along.

6. HEAVY METAL MACHINE (Machina/The Machines of God, 2000)

This is such a cool song. It’s a slow chugger, and almost reminds me of a contemporary Iron Man. If you listen to the beginning of the song and the way Billy sings the lines, ‘If I were alive / If I were real’, his vocals sound like they’ve got a similar filter on them to the voice that comes in at the start of Iron Man, too. So I like that Black Sabbath-y vibe, and it does exactly what it says in the title: Heavy Metal Machine.

5. THE EVERLASTING GAZE (Machina/The Machines of God, 2000)

This song’s produced in a kind of broken up, electro way. It’s a fucking rocker though! We make mix CDs for the van when we’re on tour, and The Everlasting Gaze made it on to one. I hadn’t listened to it for years, and I put it on once when we were driving through Europe. Everyone freaked out because they hadn’t heard it in ages either. It’s such a killer song. It’s the first track on The Machines of God as well. It’s such a great opener.

This song really crunches. It’s particularly high up for me because it had a direct influence on the way I play guitar. The intro is so mad, and Billy does all these weird pulls on the neck of his guitar. When I heard him doing that stuff for the first time I became obsessed with working out how to do them and nail them, and make them sound as good as Billy’s. They’re a major part of my playing now. They’re all over Dinosaur songs – I do them virtually all the time. Willow Tree on our album Eleven Eleven is quite a Pumpkins-style song, and Bad Penny has loads of pulls on it as well. And I’m pretty sure that’s all because of Jelly Belly.

3. BULLET WITH BUTTERFLY WINGS (Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, 1995)

This song is so dramatic. The lyrics are great. And there’s this dynamic to it where it goes from Billy’s breathy, tender vocals to him fucking screaming his dick off. The main lyrical hook of the song is so killer too. And when else do you hear a band start off a song like that? The only other one I can maybe think of is Rage Against The Machine, with Zack [de la Rocha] opening it up with some line. But there aren’t many others. It’s such a ballsy, iconic song.

2. WHERE BOYS FEAR TO TREAD (Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, 1995)

I wonder whether anyone else would’ve picked this one or even thought about it, but I’d like to go with the opening track on Side Two of Mellon Collie, and that’s Where Boys Fear to Tread. It’s my second favourite track by them, just because I love the riff so, so much. The intro is kind of broken. It’s just random guitar noises and the drums half start up and then it sounds like Jimmy Chamberlain is sacking it off, then starting again. Both the guitars and the drums are doing this. It’s sort of building up, and then suddenly from out of nowhere in the background this killer riff starts up, and it’s so addictive. There’s something about it that’s so ace. And that’s why this song is my number two. It’s one of my favourite riffs of all-time.

1. ZERO (Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, 1995)

Number one has to be Zero for me, just because it’s one of my favourite alternative rock songs of all-time. The riff, the lyrics, the melody, and the feel of the whole song are all brilliant. It’s such a great song. And when I was a kid, when I was literally just getting into rock music, it just happened to be one of the first songs that I heard, and it made such a lasting impression on me. In a similar way to when I first heard Drain You by Nirvana or My Own Summer by Deftones, I’d never heard anything like it before. Musically, it was so fresh and different, and the guitar line is so addictive. And it’s such a heavy song, delivered with so much attitude and character, but it’s done in an almost pop kind of a way. It’s fucking brilliant!

Matt Bigland was speaking to Matt Stocks. Dinosaur Pile-Up are on tour now.