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Every Smashing Pumpkins Song, Ranked

Weepy dual acoustics, sighing vocals, no percussion necessary. How this Sadlands demo missed the cut of Pisces Iscariot proper is anyone’s guess. — A.U.

99. “The Crying Tree of Mercury” (Machina: The Machines of God, 2000)

It was never a matter of if Billy Corgan would write a song called “The Crying Tree of Mercury,” it was when. I’m assuming the Pornography synth blurt came first and upon hearing it, could Corgan really have called this deep, deep MACHINA cut anything else? — IAN COHEN

98. “Snail” (Gish, 1991)

A kind of dry-run for “Drown,” guitars soaring at an appropriately slow, gauzy crawl. Amazing in retrospect how few years it took for “Flower chase the sunshine” to turn into “Living makes me sick / So sick I wish I’d die,” really. — A.U.

97. “Soothe” (Demo) (“Disarm,” 1993)

And it does. — A.U.

96. “99 Floors” (If All Goes Wrong, 2008)

The best of the Zeitgeist-era tracks that didn’t make the LP cut but made it into the 2008 concert doc If All Goes Wrong, a gorgeously slow-developing strummer that sees Billy in his underutilized Led Zeppelin III sweet spot. Despite the eight-minute-plus length, few 21st-century Pumpkins songs have avoided bombast this successfully or rewardingly. — A.U.

95. “For Martha” (Adore, 1998)

An eight-minute tribute to Billy Corgan’s late mother, who succumbed to cancer in 1996, “For Martha” endures as one of Adore’s emotional pillars. Supported by cyclical piano that swirls, builds, and recedes like a nighttime tide, the frontman bids a heartfelt and touching farewell to his parent: “If you have to go don’t you cry / If you have to go I will get by / Someday I’ll follow you and see you on the other side.” The two-minute coda may be unnecessary — especially after the album’s marquee guitar solo fades and the song slows to a would-be conclusion — but the universal sentiment shared here remains affecting. — K.M.

94. “Crush” (Gish, 1991)

“And this feeling shiiiivers down your spine / Love comes in colors I can’t deny / All that matters is love, love, your love.” That’s the kind of college-dorm softie shtick that could make you unleash your inner Belushi. But swaddled in Butch Vig’s plush production and delivered by a long-haired Billy Corgan who had yet to conquer the Alternative Nation? It’s endearing enough to make you believe — for three-and-a-half minutes, at least — that Corgan’s ever-growing ambition could be satisfied with a simple kiss. — K.M.

93. “I of the Mourning” (Machina: The Machines of God, 2000)

Billy Corgan’s fervent New Order fandom permeates this high-end Machina deep cut, which pairs a Peter Hook-reminiscent humming bass line with a mess of tangled, despairng electric guitars. — ANNIE ZALESKI

92. “X.Y.U.” (Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, 1995)

In which the rat whips himself into a psychotic frenzy, pacing around his cage, finally exploding, “AND IN THE EYES OF A JACKAL I SAY KA-BOOM!!” Fascinating, if messy. — A.U.

91. “Lily (My One and Only)” (Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, 1995)

The Pumpkins are often criticized for being too serious, a charge that Billy Corgan answered in ‘96 by telling SPIN, “We didn’t realize that we were supposed to be funny, too.” But there is a sliver of comedy lining parts of their output — they called their 28-track double album Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, fer chrissakes. The band’s unhinged sense of humor has never been clearer than on “Lily (My One and Only),” a vaudevillian number where Corgan gets his Eddie Cantor on to relay the story of a deluded peeping tom, a young man driven mad by obsessing over the object of his desire. This is the good kind of self-parody. — K.M.

90. “La Dolly Vita” (“Tristessa,” 1990)

“La Dolly Vita / Cool as ice cream” doesn’t exactly pack the visual poetry of Anita Ekberg frolicking in the Trevi Fountain, but it’s refreshingly unassuming for a Corgan chorus hook. A little Black Crowes-y in its laconic psych-blues, and nothing wrong with that — at the beginning of the ’90s, anyway. — A.U.

89. “United States” (Zeitgeist, 2007)

No song should ever be called “United States” (or have lyrics like “I wanna fight / Revolution tonight”) but at least with its roiling guitars and tidal-wave drums, this ten-minute Zeitgeist climax is massive enough to bluff at repping for the fightin’ 50. Combined with the album’s Planet of the Apes-like cover image, it’s high drama enough to make Zeitgeist seem a lot more like a concept album than it actually is. — A.U.

88. “Luna” (Siamese Dream, 1993)

An aural mash note that’s as much an ode to love songs as it is to any one person. Corgan’s especially mushy here — for the final minute, he simply confesses “I’m in love with you” over and over again, and actually plays his own hypeman, exclaiming “So in love!” in the background. But when his overemoting comes bathed in the warm-and-fuzzy layers that he and co-producer Butch Vig labored over, the frontman deserves a pass. — K.M.

87. “Annie-Dog” (Adore, 1998)

The Smashing Pumpkins’ fourth album is the one where Billy Corgan learned how to use his voice to its fullest effect. Toning down both the whine that pleaded for attention on Siamese Dream and the snarl that scarred Mellon Collie’s nastiest moments, the singer worked within narrower — and far more subdued — parameters; he poured his vocals into the songs, rather than lashing out at them. On “Annie-Dog,” Corgan’s throat creaks amidst piano chords that tumble out, entwined with his clipped syllables. The lead Pumpkin’s wounded as always, but perhaps more than any other SP track, this one draws you toward his pain, a quiet come-hither in place of the usual red-faced tantrum. — K.M.

86. “Freak” (Teargarden By Kaleidyscope, Vol. 2, 2010)

The easy highpoint of the otherwise horrendous Teargarden By Kaleidyscope EP set, combining two of Corgan’s best fuzz-rock riffs of the 21st century with a layered vocal hook cuddly and dejected enough (“Life is not a dream when you can’t wake from the dream you wanted”) to have absolutely ruled alt-rock radio in the mid-’90s. — A.U.

85. “Real Love” (Machina II/The Friends & Enemies of Modern Music, 2000)

Static-crusted dream-pop vocals, screaming synths, and stacked razor-thin guitars make “Real Love” a compelling experiment in what My Bloody Valentine might’ve sounded like if you could actually understand (most of) the lyrics. — A.U.

84. “Run2Me” (Monuments to an Elegy, 2014)

Decades ago, you might’ve guessed that Billy Corgan took some time to indulge his latent tendencies toward U2-like grandeur — but “Run2Me” goes full on contemporary Christian. If you can block out the pagan psychobabble of the (G*d-awful) video, the song strangely makes a pretty compelling case for the strangled sonics of the Lord’s rock. Emphasis is placed on little more than the overall sense of community and oneness and the end result is a thing of synth-y, emotionally manipulative beauty. He’s already got the devoted following and the absurd conspiracy theories, and now he has a worship song. In another life, Billy would make a pretty solid cult leader.— COLIN JOYCE

83. “This Time” (Machina: The Machines of God, 2000)

Sequenced right in the middle of what was originally believed to be the Smashing Pumpkins’ final studio album, “This Time” is apparently Billy Corgan’s love song to the first version of the band. Even without that extra bit of context, this cathartic Machina anthem — with its lump-in-the-throat climax and wistful electronic flourishes — would have an air of finality: “So cry these tears / We’ll cry as all / We’ve held so long to fall apart / As the curtain falls / We bid you all goodnight.” Now imagine how much more meaningful it would’ve been if the Pumpkins had stayed gone. — K.M.

82. “Mouths of Babes” (“Zero,” 1996)

The coolest thing about The Aeroplane Flies High box set — which commemorated the year when Smashing Pumpkins were the biggest rock band in the world — was that it posited Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness as this wormhole portal to alternate universes where the art-rock Lollapalooza crashers portray a new wave cover band (the “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” disc) and sadcore dream-poppers (the “1979” segment). But the Zero portion was the shrewdest, the shut-up-and-detonate-your-guitar EP to sate the “Cupid de Locke” haters, and the riff-candy necklace “Mouths of Babes” especially could’ve held its own betwixt “Zero” and “Here Is No Why.” — DAN WEISS

81. “Spaceboy” (Siamese Dream, 1993)

Consider this one the clearest preview of Mellon Collie offered by Siamese Dream, both in its ever-swelling bloat and its starry-eyed emoting. The Pumpkins’ inverted “Space Oddity” never quite takes off the way it threatens to, but Billy Corgan’s stage whisper is so affecting that it’d cut straight to the heart even in the crushing vacuum outside the thermosphere. — C.J.

80. “Sad Peter Pan” (w/ Red Red Meat) (Sweet Relief II: Gravity for the Situation V/A, 1996)

A cover for the Vic Chesnutt tribute album Sweet Relief II — assisted by fellow Chi-Towners (and then-Sub Pop signees) Red Red Meat — the uncharacteristically distant lo-fi of this cover makes it sound achingly personal for Corgan, if for no other reason than “Sad Peter Pan” is just about the most fitting nickname the Great Pumpkin could’ve hoped to avoid in ’96. — A.U.

79. “Panopticon” (Oceania, 2012)

Corgan and Co.’s late-period work leans toward the riff-y claustrophobia of their post-grunge peers, but “Panopticon” feels like fresh air. Their often dour lyrical predilections pivot to focus on breath, love, life and “a sun that shines in” Billy himself. The Allmans guitar harmonies are miles from the hard sear of their early solos, but after a few decades of success, a little optimism feels earned. — C.J.

78. “Dancing in the Moonlight” (“Disarm,” 1994)

The Pumpkins were second only to the Afghan Whigs among alt-rock cover acts, and this live Thin Lizzy slow-down is a perfect example why: spotlessly recreating the dusky romance of the Bad Reputation classic, while sounding representative enough of the Pisces Iscariot era’s unplugged haziness to be a perfectly credible SP original. — A.U.

77. “Love” (Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, 1995)

On the expanded “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” single, the Pumpkins would cover the Cars’ “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight” in earnest, but first they simply swiped the distorted chug of its intro for the scintillating beginning to Dawn to Dusk‘s “Love.” Corgan’s jumbled squawking (“Born of the airs and dues, my airs of madness do declare”) isn’t nearly as powerful as Ric Ocasek’s self-debasing lust, but he can match the new-wave maestro for shimmering sonic darkness any day. — A.U.

76. “Tiberius” (Monuments to an Elegy, 2014)

Unusually tall for his time, this man who ascended to incredible heights of power during a time of economic prosperity in his realm despite (because of?) his inferiority complex. But enough about Tiberius’ ascent within Roman Empire; it’s clear why Corgan empathizes with the dude, but not so much why he’s the namesake for Smashing Pumpkins making the best Weezer song of the past ten years. — I.C.

75. “The Aeroplane Flies High (Turns Left, Looks Right)” (“Thirty-Three,” 1996)

The B-side so big they named an entire box set after it; “Aeroplane” does grow somewhat turgid over the course of eight-plus minutes of scuzzy lurching, but the stoner-metal menace of the primary groove is one the band would rarely equal elsewhere. Plus, the best tape-recorded spoken-word intro since “Providence.”A.U.

74. “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight” (“Bullet With Butterfly Wings,” 1996)

Smashing Pumpkins’ obsession with new wave led to some rather intriguing Mellon Collie-era B-sides. One of the best was the group’s snarling cover of the Cars’ “You’re All I’ve Got Tonight,” from the “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” single reissue, which pairs military-precise drums and sparse, metalli-grunge riffing. — A.Z.

73. “In the Arms of Sleep” (Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, 1995)

Melancholy? Sure — “Sleep will not come to this tired body now / Peace will not come to this lonely heart.” But the sadness is finite on one of the Pumpkins’ duskiest, most darkly gorgeous ballads. Like most of the love songs, it seems to present the narrator as a necessitous low man in a one-sided power struggle (“And I’ll always need her more than she’ll ever need me”), but Courtney Love, Jessica Simpson, and Tila Tequila are rumored to have suffered Billy Corgan’s desire for them, so what the hell do I know? — I.C.

72. “Plume” (“I Am One,” 1991)

That gas-leak grind betrays the fact that Corgan and Co. may well have left the B-side of their very first single off of the jumpy, ‘70s-besotted Gish for being too grunge, especially with lines like “My boredom has outshined the sun.” James Iha’s paint-peeling solo bridges the two eras like a noisy emulsifying agent, and the fuzz-bleached bass was “borrowed” from Deep Blue Dream (not Something?), whom Corgan thanked in the Pisces Iscariot liners. If idle hands do the devil’s work, then Beelzebub’s a natural at doubling guitar leads. — D.W.

71. “Here’s to the Atom Bomb” (“Try, Try, Try,” 2000)

As besot as the project was with unnecessary concept-album ballast, there were a handful of surprisingly buoyant songs created during the Machina era. One of the best was “Atom Bomb,” a two-chord groover that sounds almost Manchester-like in its neo-psychedelia, with a multi-guitar sheen that makes Corgan’s mostly incomprehensible bloviating (something about television being evil, maybe?) seem somehow affirmative. (Go for the blistering B-side version of this one, by the way, not the submerged-sounding “New Wave” version with alternate lyrics on Machina II.) — A.U.

70. “Crestfallen” (Adore, 1998)

The world was not necessarily asking for Smashing Pumpkins’ musical answer to “Truly, Madly, Deeply,” but they got it with this side-two Adore cut, which borrows Savage Garden’s trip-hop music-box balladry for one of Corgan’s more straightforward and affecting lyrics. Whether being sung out of shame or low self-esteem, Billy’s questioning of his own worthiness in the light of his beloved is surprisingly human, and the song’s conclusion (“You were never meant to belong to me”) is a rare ego-less moment for the frontman. — A.U.

69. “Wound” (Machina: The Machines of God, 2000)

The glorious unification of the pop-rock concision Billy Corgan promised after Adore and the blinding, synth-slicked Flood production he got on Machina; or, our immediate reward for making it through all 47 minutes of “Glass and the Ghost Children.”— I.C.

68. “Dreaming” (“Bullet With Butterfly Wings,” 1996)

A dreary, electronic take on Blondie’s 1979 classic, this Aeroplane Flies High find offers a clue as to the pivot SP were planning after their own “1979,” as they waded into Adore’s gothtronica. Best of all, this version of “Dreaming” gives fans a rare duet between Billy and D’Arcy, his breathy vocals slow-dancing with her deadpan delivery over a whirling trip-hop beat. Shame they didn’t share the mic more often, but fans can still listen to this and wonder, “What if…” Dreaming, after all, is free. — K.M.

67. “White Spyder” (Machina II: The Friends & Enemies of Modern Music, 2000)

For all their techno-rock overtures of the late-’90s, the Pumpkins’ first true attempt at an industrial rave-up came with this surprisingly frisky Machina II gem, which sounds like The Fragile at 45 RPM. And not to keep ragging on “Glass and the Ghost Children,” but considering the spider-crawling lyrics to this one seem to have derived from that death march’s closing section, it’s tempting to wonder how much lither the original Machina could’ve felt with this one in its place. — A.U.

66. “Bury Me” (Gish, 1991)

Underappreciated in the shadow of other Gish highlights, “Bury Me” secretly anchors side one of the Smashing Pumpkins’ still-enveloping debut. It’s the first bit of proof that there’s a real front-to-back album beyond the college-radio smashes, one that weaves a web of hard-rock guitar stabs, psychedelia-toking production, and sweet-and-sour vocals. Billy sings about being buried, but it’s just to throw you off, a diversion that allows his band to swallow you whole. — K.M.

65. “Whir” (Pisces Iscariot, 1994)

Despite his tendency to overreach — both as a lyricist and the Smashing Pumpkins’ musical svengali — Billy Corgan is capable of a light touch. Case in point: “Whir,” which was left off of Siamese Dream and rightfully so; the song’s tender, autumnal strums wouldn’t have fit in with that album’s fussily stacked guitar parts or done much to further its widescreen assault on radio. Instead, “Whir” landed on Pisces Iscariot, imbuing the odds-and-ends collection with a modest sense of awe and gently bolstering its reputation as an essential Pumpkins document. — K.M.

64. “Bleeding the Orchid” (Zeitgeist, 2007)

A power ballad of genuine power, whose queasy guitars and exquisite nocturnal fog make it sound like Billy playing catchup with James Iha’s other band, with surprisingly successful results. And no, as far as we can tell, “Bleeding the Orchid” is not Pumpkinspeak for masturbation, though, really, you can never be too careful with Corgan. — A.U.

63. “Here Is No Why” (Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, 1995)

The Smashing Pumpkins’ answer to the Smiths’ “Rubber Ring,” the song that foretells of the day the King of Gloom abdicates his throne, the Death Rock Boy cuts his hair, and the kids don’t need this sad-bastard music to save their lives anymore. When you’re dancing and laughing and finally living, it’s supposed to feel every bit as glorious as the guitar solo — having left those sad machines yourself, you’ll hear it in your head and think of Corgan kindly. — I.C.

62. “Home” (Machina II: The Friends & Enemies of Modern Music, 2000)

Weeping treble soaks this effusive Unforgettable Fire-like ode to returning from whence the Great Pumpkin came, practically drowning it in hard-earned sentimentality. Considering that SP’s real-life run was coming to an end at the time, it feels like the appropriate, LCD Soundsystem-like bow on the group’s original run. A couple of releases from Corgan and Co.’s second go-round have attempted to replicate its swirling comforts, but they’ve mostly just proven you can’t go home again. — A.U.

61. “Pug” (Adore, 1998)

The hip-hop-edged beats and soupy sonics of previous collaborator Butch Vig’s work with mid-’90s breakout stars Garbage would heavily inform Corgan’s Adore era, and “Pug” was about as close as the frontman would get to playing Shirley Manson. The hybrid sound watermarks the song’s late-’90s-ness, but the chorus melody is one of Corgan’s most naturally majestic, and the cacophony that the outro builds to provides some much-needed tension to Adore‘s back half. — A.U.

60. “Raindrops + Sunshowers” (Machina: The Machines of God, 2000)

There are a number of legitimate explanations for Adore’s dud commercial performance: the band playing against their strengths, the changing alt-rock tides leaving the band marooned, the first line on the first single being “It’s you that I adore / You’ll always be my whore.” Or, how about this: They lost the best drummer of the decade. Imagine the finest songs on Adore with Chamberlin on the skins and that’s basically “Raindrops + Sunshowers”; for Machina’s first eight minutes, it really does sound like a return to form. — I.C.

59. “7 Shades of Black” (Zeitgeist, 2007)

Corgan at his glam-strutting best, spitting the opening lines “I’m on the street, yeah / I want you / I’m looking for myself” like he was finally getting comfortable with his inner Paul Stanley. Best of all is Chamberlin’s fists-of-fury drumming matching Corgan for sheer chest-beating bravado, reminding you why of all the bandmates Billy has cycled through over the years, JC is the one he calls his “musical soul mate.”A.U.

58. “Take Me Down” (Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, 1995)

Not the Pumpkins’ best James Iha song, but certainly the best-deployed; a hushed cradle song of an intermission between the proggy bombast of “Porcelina of the Vast Oceans” and the crunching riffage of “Where Boys Fear to Tread” at the Mellon Collie midpoint. If the transition from Dawn to Dusk — or from Twilight to Starlight, for that matter — made a sound, we could only hope it would resemble the soft-spoken guitarist’s heavenly coo. — A.U.

57. “Never Let Me Down Again” (“Rocket,” 1994)

The Pumpkins wisely avoid attempting to replicate the juggernaut swagger of the Depeche Mode version here, instead going for something more quietly apocalyptic, and surprisingly jazzy. (If nothing else, Billy was born to sing-sigh the “See the stars they’re signing bright / Everything’s all right tonight” outro.) D-Mode singer Dave Gahan has even said he believes the Pumpkins version to be “a lot better” than his original — he’s wrong, of course, but the fact that it’s even a discussion is impressive. — A.U.

56. “Tear” (Adore, 1998)

J.G. Ballard’s lawyers have f**ked up big time if his estate doesn’t receive royalties every time Crash is referenced in an alt-rock song — few literary works speak more loudly towards musicians’ desires to be dark, populist sex-havers. On Adore, Corgan’s take turns into a conflagratory pile-up of chunky quasi-breakbeats, 808s and heartbreak synth-pop, and mellotron-spiked grandeur; or, in Corgan’s words, a “dead opera motorcrash.” M83’s Anthony Gonzalez was clearly rubbernecking. — I.C.

55. “To Forgive” (Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, 1995)

Mellon Collie’s emotional spectrum ranges from two adolescent extremes: all-consuming infatuation and soul-corroding nihilism. “To Forgive” dwells on the latter, but does so to startling effect. Memories of childhood neglect have blistered over, but a somber guitar line pops them open. And no matter what age Corgan was when he wrote these lyrics — or what age you are reading them — the ache behind a line like “And I remember my birthdays / Empty party afternoons won’t come back” never fades completely. — K.M.

54. “Heavy Metal Machine” (Machina: The Machines of God, 2000)

With Jimmy Chamberlin back in tow, the Pumpkins were free to go back to the riff-ready hard rock on which they initially made their name. The mottled production’s fitting of its time, sure, but there’s really not all that much that separates Corgan’s cartwheeling guitar work from the sort that spun through the margins as far back as Gish. Their clattering alchemy certainly produced material that more classically resembles gold, but if you blow back the dust coating it, the sheen looks familiar. — C.J.

53. “Soma (Instrumental)” (Siamese Dream Deluxe Edition, 2011)

On the original Siamese Dream, “Soma” served as the album’s gently unspooling fulcrum, spidery guitar lines conspiring in the background as Corgan wailed, “I’m all byyyyyyy myyyyyselllllf / As I’ve alllwayyyys felllllt….” But as the instrumental version on this decade’s Siamese reissue proved, the song’s better off without Billy’s vocal lamentations, just an eerie whisper billowing around the night sky, briefly erupting into bright light before retreating into the dark. Turns out the Pumpkins would’ve made for some pretty dope post-rockers. — A.U.

52. “F**k You (An Ode to No One)” (Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, 1995)

One of the most enjoyably nihilistic Mellon Collie anthems, a choo-choo guitar riff exploding into a Chemical Bros.-worthy chorus breakbeat. The best part is undoubtedly the breakdown section, where the guitars chug themselves out of gas and the drums collapse in exhaustion trying to keep up with Corgan’s generational ranting. The way Billy purrs, “Lost my innocence to a no-good gurrrrrrl…” makes for one of his most delectable moments. — A.U.

51. “Porcelina of the Vast Oceans” (Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, 1995)

If you’re going to call a song “Porcelina of the Vast Oceans,” it damn well better be a nine-minute, multi-part epic with Rush-worthy sprawl and guitar grandiosity, and a legitimately swooning chorus. We’ll give it to ’em. — A.U.

50. “Destination Unknown” (“Bullet With Butterfly Wings,” 1996)

On the flipside of “Bullet With Butterfly Wings,” the band turn Missing Persons’ DayGlo new-wave hit “Destination Unknown” into a Gary Numan-esque slice of robotic, space-age synth-pop, somehow making it even glossier and dreamier than the original. — A.Z.