"Adore weaves its dark spell a little bit deeper. It's brooding, gothic and hypnotic in spades": Smashing Pumpkins embrace the sadness but lose fans on Adore

After Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness there was nowhere to go but up for Smashing Pumpkins: Then bad things began to happen

Smashing Pumpkins: Adore cover art
(Image: © Virgin Records)

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Smashing Pumpkins: Adore

Smashing Pumpkins: Adore cover art

(Image credit: Virgin Records)

To Sheila
Ava Adore
Daphne Descends
Once Upon a Time
Appels + Oranjes
The Tale of Dusty and Pistol Pete
Behold! The Night Mare
For Martha
Blank Page

By the mid-90s, Smashing Pumpkins were on a steep upward trajectory. But the following summer, drummer Jimmy Chamberlin and touring keyboard player Jonathan Melvoin both overdosed. While Chamberlin recovered, Melvoin was not as fortunate. Chamberlin was dismissed and the band remained a three-piece as they began work on Adore

Frontman Billy Corgan was consumed by grief after the loss of his mother and the end of his marriage, and Adore is an interesting meditation on loss. At turns glowering and sombre, tender and beautiful, it leans heavily into electronica territory and divided fans who were expecting a sequel to Mellon Collie.

But listen to the sublime and gentle lilt of To Sheila, the electronified sleaze and menace, respectively, of Ava Adore and Pug, the forlorn resignation of For Martha, the sheer magnificence and melancholy of Shame and the abject, piano-led heartbreak of Blank Page. Those last two songs alone are amongst the Pumpkins' best, but they’re also part of a much greater whole. 

It might have been divisive at the time – and it sold badly, to Billy Corgan's disappointment – but in some ways Adore is the band’s most cohesive album.

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Other albums released in June 1998

  • Blodhemn - Enslaved
  • Freakonica - Girls Against Boys
  • Munki - The Jesus and Mary Chain
  • RFTC - Rocket from the Crypt
  • 8 F♯ A♯ ∞ - Godspeed You Black Emperor!
  • Diabolus in Musica - Slayer
  • DLR Band - David Lee Roth
  • Imagination - Brian Wilson
  • Powertrip - Monster Magnet
  • Silent Reign of Heroes - Molly Hatchet
  • Under the Radar - Little Feat
  • Mermaid Avenue - Billy Bragg and Wilco
  • Car Wheels on a Gravel Road - Lucinda Williams
  • Carry On - Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
  • Life Won't Wait - Rancid
  • Live & Rare - Rage Against the Machine
  • Something's Gotta Give - Agnostic Front
  • System Of A Down - System of a Down


What they said...

"The shift in tone is as refreshing as it is unexpected. Corgan sounds more vulnerable than ever, his voice cracking with weariness on Annie-Dog and embracing a heavy-lidded sensuality on Shame and a desperate, heart-breaking optimism on To Sheila. His music strives to preserve the beauty of that innocence, while his lyrics acknowledge its inevitable corrosion." (Rolling Stone)

"Having to follow his elaborate prog-grunge double-album without Chamblerlin to help forge the path, Corgan was caught in two minds over how to reinvent his Pumpkins. In one of his palms sat the option of "industrial-electro goth-pop". On the other hand was "stripped-down acoustic folk music". Unable to make the decision, Corgan clapped his pale hands together, mashing both musical directions into a sad grey mulch." (The Quietus)

"The intimacy and restraint of To Sheila set the tone for the Pumpkins' most low-key album. Everything, from the tempos to the rhythms to Billy Corgan's voice, has been taken down a notch. Ballads prevail, nudged along by tick-tocking drum machines and fragile pianos. Even when the band pumps up the volume – on the first single, Ava Adore, about a love that will tear you apart – the dramatic flourishes are subdued." (Entertainment Weekly)


What you said...

Brian Hart: This is a criminally underrated album. Billy really shifted gears with Adore. I love the subtle use of synth which made it a very atmospheric album. To Shelia is an understated and beautiful song. You can feel the sadness running through this album. For Martha is a beautiful tribute to his mother. The Tale Of Dusty And Pistol Pete is one of SP’s best songs. 

This album is a gem from beginning to end. The musical output by Billy and the Pumpkins was incredible. I would put their catalogue from Gish up to Machina II up against anyone. Even their two b-side albums are stellar. Unfortunately, I find everything from Zeitgeist and beyond boring (I mean no disrespect when saying that). Don’t get me wrong, there are some good songs within those releases but nothing on par with earlier pumpkins. Adore is an elite album.

Bill Griffin: I don't think I've ever heard a Smashing Pumpkins album before so the apparent fact that this one is a departure in style from their previous efforts did not affect my opinion. I like it, although perhaps not enough to actually spend money on it.

Dave Hinsley
It's an ok album but I certainly don't adore it... I'll get my coat.

Hylton Blignaut: I like it. In the big picture, it probably gets played a little less than Pisces Iscariot, but more than Mellon Collie. Siamese Dream is by far my favourite though.

Mark Herrington: I like a lot of the Pumpkin's work , but Adore just weaves its dark spell a little bit deeper. It's brooding, gothic and hypnotic in spades. In a similar vein to the Cure’s Disintegration or the Bunnymen’s Ocean Rain.

To Sheila opens warmly before Ava Adore powerfully mesmerises, Billy Corgan’s distinctive vocals ominously accompanying the song. Perfect calms again before the wonderfully bleak Daphne Descends seduces with its driving beat. A similar shift into the beguiling Once Upon a Time before the masterful despair of Tear. The pattern of emotional rise and fall continues throughout the album. Appels and Oranjes, another hypnotic song that just works its way into your subconscious. So it continues with a set of tunes that just trickle their way into the grey matter .

A great album for rainy days, contemplation and picturing the scene as "Twilight Fades through Blistered Avalon."

James Patrick Martin: The only album of there's I like is Mellon Colley And The Infinite Sadness and I can't even listen to it in its entirety.

Paul Mackrell: Ava Adore is smoking hot.

Stav Au-Dag: Crappy songs & crappy sound: an abject failure!

T.C. Grantham: When I first heard the first track, I thought it was going to be a crap album. But it started to pick up by the second song. The only song I’d ever heard by them is the end credits song to Batman and Robin. It’s a good album. I wouldn’t say it’s one of the greats, but it does have its moments.

Mike Canoe: I like Adore well enough while it's on, but once it's over I still couldn't hum you a tune or quote you a lyric besides "perfect strangers when we meet" and that's probably because Perfect sounds like "1979 2.0."

So, while the album's playing, I like Ava Adore (heavy electronics and sullen lyrics), Daphne Descends (dreamy music, dreamy singing), skip ahead to Crestfallen (soft and weepy), Appels + Oranjes (possibly the only track worth dancing to with glow sticks and glitter), skip ahead again to Shame (nice guitar textures) and, finally, "Behold! The Nightmare (choral voices and a jolt at the 2:55 mark). Still undecided on how much time I want to invest in the rest.

If you have a problem with Billy Corgan's howling whine of a voice, you might like it better here since it's generally softer, quieter. If Landslide was previously your favourite Smashing Pumpkins song but you wish it had synthetic beats, Adore might be the album for you. If you need the guitar squall and thundering drums, best to put on Gish or Siamese Dream again.

Greg Schwepe: Since any one of us in this group is probably seen as a “Music Geek Expert Know It All” by their friends, we might occasionally get asked by those friends about bands or albums. “If I wanted to get into [insert name of band], which album should I start with that really sums up who they are?”

So, when you’re asked this about the Smashing Pumpkins, you will not tell them to rush out and listen to Adore. Not that this is “bad” album per se, but it seems a little out of context to what the band is really about, based on my limited Pumpkins knowledge. But for the “Smashing Pumpkins Super Fan,” they probably know every song on Adore by heart and every little nuance in Billy Corgan’s voice and they would listen to all 1 hour and 13 minutes of this over and over. I know because there are “really out of the norm” albums like this from bands I like (David Bowie, U2, Rush, to name a few) and yes, I listen over and over and are totally burned into my senses.

I had bought Siamese Dream after it came out and found it to be an OK album full of loud, fuzzed-out songs. However, it never gained traction with me and I never bought anything after that. Though subsequent Pumpkins songs on the radio that were filled with Corgan’s raging voice and guitar would cause me to turn up the volume.

Adore is a meandering, atmospheric album filled with (it seems) more keyboards than guitar. Maybe kind of a palate-cleansing album after Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness. Did listen all the way through and there was enough swings in the vibe that every time I almost bailed, I stuck around and the next song had some interesting take to keep me listening.

This is one of those albums made for the “all in” fan but maybe not for the first-time or casual listener. I fall into the latter category. But hey, do I still totally laugh when I see the Smashing Pumpkins in the Homerpalooza episode of The Simpsons? Sure do. 6 out of 10 for me on this one.

Leslie Moyes: Love this album a lot as soon as I first played it always favourite.

John Davidson: For the most part I like some Smashing Pumpkins tracks but rarely enjoy a whole album. The raging gothic grunge vibe only works sometimes. On Adore I find it worked the other way round, where I enjoyed the vibe of the album without noticing any of the songs.

Great mood music if you are feeling melancholy.

Philip QvistTo Sheila, Ava Adore and Perfect kept my interest initially, and the same could be said about a couple of songs that followed these three, but I began to lose some interest after that. The album certainly missed the drumming of Jimmy Chamberlin, while you got the impression that a gulf had opened between Billy Corgan and the other two members, James Iha and Darcy Wretzky.

It's not a bad album at all, but it definitely falls short when compared to the two albums that preceded it, ie Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness.

Peter Thomas Webb: The Smashing Pumpkins began as a sort of heavy metal Cocteau Twins, refining a sound by the time of 1993's Siamese Dream that made them stand out from the Wall of Grunge plastering the world's dorm rooms. On 1995's Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness, the Pumpkins sound had become so overwrought and compressed, that a Hoover vacuum cleaner sounded subtle by comparison.

1998's Adore was a complete about-face – a quiet, melodic, wallpaper of an album that eschewed Billy Corgan's buzzsaw Stratocasters and Jimmy Chamberlain's cavernous drums.

Mellowness itself isn't a problem. The problem is that, by ridding Smashing Pumpkins music of its rage and anger, Corgan's voice – always the band's weakest element – is pushed forward in the mix, forced to carry tunes whose mediocrity is underscored by the formlessness of the vocal.

Nothing on Adore is bad or unlistenable, but a little more bluster to balance the bathos would have made it a step forward for Pumpkins instead of a backward flop into the ditch. My rating: 5/10.

Chris Elliott: For some reason, the Smashing Pumpkins always left me cold. In theory I should have liked them given my tastes at the time and his influences but for some reason I just never clicked with them. In some ways it's a very polite version of "alternative" - I can hear the influences (smoothed down to remove rough edges) but...

Evan Sanders: I'm glad that this one came up for our listening, as I have rarely listened to Adore since I bought it shortly after its original release. To be fair, Smashing Pumpkins had a high bar to overcome given the previous releases of Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie. Originally, I didn't care much for Adore, seeing it as mellower and more atmospheric with few memorable songs. 

My opinion is slightly raised now, as songs like Ava Adore, Perfect, and Crestfallen are strong. However, many of the slower and more atmospheric songs feel like filler, and make me feel like Billy Corgan was being too deliberate in turning away from the sound of their previous albums. Maybe it's just something about 1998-1999, as those were the years that we also saw REM go drummer-less with Up, and U2 do a sonic about-face on Pop. 5/10 back when it was released, which I'll upgrade to 6/10.


Final score: 5.94 (74 votes cast, total score 440)

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