The Aeroplane Flies High (Virgin Records)
By: [email protected]
It was a much needed seemingly anthem, "Bullet with Butterfly Wings" was. Kids who hadn't quite ridden themselves of angst, even after the Seattle grunge scene had come and gone, thought to themselves, "Finally, someone else understands!" and went out to buy the album; die-hard Pumpkin fans thought, "Ahh, more Pumpkins!" and went out to buy the album; teeny boppers across the land thought, "Hey, these guys have had other videos, and it's on MTV anyway, so it must be good!" and went out to buy the album. That was Smashing Pumpkins fourth full-length album release, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.
A year later, Smashing Pumpkins released the follow up, five-disc set, "The Aeroplane Flies High." The set contained the five singles from Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, with songs added to each disc.
Warning: before you proceed, know that the author of this review is both young and ignorant.
The beginning...is the end...is the beginning...
Bullet with Butterfly Wings
To set off the entire set, we open up this first disc with that three-year-old anthem that introduced the world to Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. Following "Bullet with Butterfly Wings," we are treated to a song written by James Iha. This tune is a duet, shared between Iha himself, and the lovely Nina Gordon of Veruca Salt. Next up is a cover of a song written by Ric Ocasek, formerly of The Cars, titled "You're All I've Got Tonight." Giving us a sample of what Pumpkins taste like when they're high on techno, we next hear "Clones (We're All)," a David Carron cover song, and to preserve the continuity of the techno theme, we jump to "Destination Unknown," which was written by Dale and Terry Bozzio, and Warren Cuccurullo. Also covered on "Bullet with Butterfly Wings," is "A Night Like This," written by The Cure's Robert Smith, as well as the old Blondie tune "Dreaming."
You know the feeling you get right after you get out of a movie that you have gone to see just to get away from it all; that feeling you get when Sunday fun ends, and you realize the Monday is right around the corner? Well forget it, because that's not what "1979" is all about. "1979" is Sunday fun; "1979" is that feeling you get when you are watching the movie. Accompanying the feel good song of the album are two more testaments of Iha's poetic equivalence to Corgan with "The Boy" and "Believe", as well the Pumpkinesque song about a feeling of self-worthlessness, "Ugly." Also on 1979 is "Cherry," and "Set the Ray to Jerry."
This disc is by far the worst of the five. Opening with the only song on Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness that didn't manage to get on my list of favorites, we jump to "God," which is the only song on this particular disc that really grabs me, then to "Mouths of Babes," "Tribute to Johnny," written by both James and Billy, "Marquis in Spades," and "Pennies." Closing the "Zero" single is "Pastichio Medley": twenty-three minutes of boredom, agony, and surprise. Boredom because...well, because it's twenty-three minutes long. Agony is relative, however. If you enjoy hearing a few moments of wonderful guitar riffs, mixed with a funny excerpt from an unreleased tune, titled "Rubberman," lightly drizzled over a mass of painful distortion, then "Pastichio Medley" is just for you! Surprise because about half way through the damn thing you don't expect it to end, but then eleven minutes and thirty seconds later, surprise! It's over.
Decieving listeners by opening with the loud, fast-paced, symphonic "Tonight, Tonight," the Pumpkins feed us tune after tune, slowly depressing us with the likes of "Meladori Magpie," "Rotten Apples," "Jupiter's Lament," "Medallia of the Gray Skies," and "Blank." "Blank" is about as slow, depressing, acoustic, and straightforward as Smashing Pumpkins get. Whining to us, in a way that only Corgan and a few others can pull off without destroying a song, about the insecurities and self-consciousness involved with falling in love, Billy states, "I wish myself to keep/ I pray myself to sleep/ I wish myself away/ I wish is was blank." In closing, we hear the version of "Tonight, Tonight" that belongs with this particular grouping of songs, entitled "Tonite Reprise." It's slower, acoustic, different, and much better, but unfortunately shorter.
As difficult to decipher as Billy Corgan's lyrics can sometimes be, and as argued as their true meanings often become, "Thirty-three" speaks to my spirit in a way that no other Smashing Pumpkins song ever has. There seems to be some definite religious connotation in there, right on the surface, as a matter of opinion. James Iha makes another writing contribution on this disc with "The Bells." The third song, sharing the same name as the boxed set, "The Aeroplane Flies High (Turns Left, Looks Right)," is a personal favorite of mine. This song displays Pumpkin Power at its peak. On this disc, you can also hear "The Last Song " (ironically, it is only the second song), "Transformer," and a cover of the classic Whiting/ Donaldson tune, "My Blue Heaven."
The end...is the beginning...is the end...
I warned you!
(pss...buy the damn thing!)