The Smashing Pumpkins: Drown

singles smashing pumpkins drown (full version)
From the soundtrack Singles (1992)

This song is among the earliest in The Smashing Pumpkins catalog, recorded in 1992 for the motion picture soundtrack Singles. The film takes place in Seattle and heralds the coming of that city’s grunge music, using the local scene as a persistent backdrop the personal and professional turmoil of a bunch of twenty-somethings. Allusions and references to the burgeoning scene abound within the movie. Soundgarden makes an on-stage appearance and members of Pearl Jam have a cameo as members of Matt Dillion’s fictional grunge band, Citizen Dick.

It been more than ten years since I saw Singles and I don’t really remember if it was good or not. I was a teenager enthralled by the music; the rest of the story mattered little to me. Once thing I do know for sure though is that the soundtrack is phenomenal. Not only is it a definitive statement about what the “grunge sound” was (and thus make it marketable to the mainstream), it features some of the best songs in the respective catalogues of the artists that appear on it.

Pearl Jam’s State of Love and Trust is easily one of the group’s finest compositions. Seasons is surely Chris Cornell’s greatest non-Soundgarden work. Screaming Trees’ Nearly Lost You, well, it just rocks. The real gem on the soundtrack though, is its closer: The Smashing Pumpkins’ Drown. It’s ironic that the album’s superlative song would be from a band that lives 1800 miles away from Seattle.

I’ve loved Drown since the first time I heard it. The song is so dreamy and peaceful, evoking a wistfulness which is surprising, considering the massive amounts of layered distortion that is piled on top of itself. It’s classic Billy Corgan, intimate when it needs to be, crashing to life at just the right moments. At more than 8 minutes long, it is an epic mind-bending journey.

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What I Love: Billy’s soft but confident vocals. The distortion-steeped solo/outro.

drown short at itunes short version

drown full at amazon full version

Soundgarden: The Day I Tried To Live

From the album Superunknown (1994)

One of the best songs from one of the 90s best albums (a 4.51/5 on my scale). The Day I Tried to Live is Chris Cornell and company at the tip-top of their game on an album that delivers smash after smash.

It’s not as frantic as Spoonman or as sour as Fell on Black Days, but more steadfast and determined in its manner of storytelling. The whining intro sets a cynical stage a sordid story of ambition and the depths one can sink to while trying to achieve a perverted definition of “living.”

What I find most interesting about this song is its unusual construction, which seems almost operatic in nature. Sure, it employs a contemporary structure, but not in the traditional pop/rock manner. From the speaker’s perspective, there’s clearly a conflict as shown by the contrast between the resolute, ominousness of the verses and the screaming, adrenaline-soaked choruses. As the song progresses, the conflict gets increasingly heated as both sides of the argument struggle for control. The verses get shorter and the screaming gets more intense, back and forth until he cast he final accusation.

This song is of the kind that sits in the back of your mind until one day, at random, its brilliance explodes into your consciousness. From there, it’s no going back.

What I Love: The song, on an Interstate at night, with windows rolled down and the volumed rolled up.

the day i tried to live at itunes
day i tried to live at amazon

One Hundred Sixty-Eight Songs (that’s 17 albums) in 3 days.

  • the flaming lips [ego tripping at the gates of hell]
  • the faint [danse macabre remixes]
  • david bowie [earthling]
  • the clebanoff strings [exciting sounds]
  • saint etienne [finisterre]
  • they might be giants [factory showroom]
  • chris cornell [euphoria morning]
  • cq soundtrack
  • nobukazu takemura [finale: for issey miyake men by naoki takizawa]
  • southern culture on the skids [dirt track date]
  • the chemical brothers [dig your own hole]
  • pizzicato five [couples]
  • mudhoney [five dollar bob’s mock cooter stew]
  • eyes wide shut soundtrack
  • the chemical brothers [exit planet dust]
  • yo la tengo [fakebook]
  • lalo schifrin [enter the dragon]

A very productive couple of days. in fact the past 6 days represents 8.6% of the playtime accomplished since tunequest began. not a bad performance. however, now i’ve got far too many tunes to write about here, so here are some quick thoughts:

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