Smashing Pumpkins – Gish + Siamese Dream Deluxe Editions

January 01, 1970

(EMI)

 

www.emimusic.com

 

The story of the
Smashing Pumpkins is so histrionically rife with personal drama, drug abuse,
creative stagnation, senseless line-up changes and overdriven egomania, it
gives the crazy saga of Fleetwood Mac a run for its money.

 

But unlike the
ever-evolving Anglo-American supergroup whose hit “Landslide” the
Pumpkins covered on their 1994 odds ‘n’ sods collection Pisces Iscariot, all
of the issues this otherwise mighty legacy act of the great alt-rock revolution
of the 1990s centered around one man, whose incessant penchant for
micromanagement makes Axl Rose look like Tony Bennett by comparison. However,
the ill-tempered Guns ‘N Roses frontman thankfully only put out one shitty
album since ridding himself of the other founding members of the band. Billy
Corgan, meanwhile, has released something like what, three or four LPs of pure
narcissistic mediocrity following the release of the group’s 1995 opus maximus Mellon
Collie and the Infinite Sadness
(though a case can be argued for 1998’s
electronic excursion Adore). 

 

Yet when the Pumpkins
were comprised of all its core principles–Corgan, guitarist James Iha, bassist
D’Arcy Wretzky and the great Jimmy Chamberlin on drums–they were one of the
most unstoppable forces in modern rock, combining their loves for both Black
Sabbath and the Cocteau Twins to deliver a metallic dreampop stomp like nothing
else in existence. And there is nary a pair of finer testaments to the purity
of the original SP sound than the group’s first two albums, both of which have
been beautifully remastered and generously expanded in a pair of three-disc
deluxe editions courtesy of EMI. 

 

Corgan cites the
band’s 1991 debut Gish (named after silent screen legend Lillian Gish)
as “beautiful naivety”. But the fact of the matter is that no other
LP is more evocative of the raw essence of the Smashing Pumpkins’ unique
fusions of feels than this ten track collection, by far and away the most
collaborative album in their canon. Expertly produced by Garbage czar and
alt-rock powerhouse Butch Vig, you can perfectly hear the sum of the band’s
collective parts on tracks like “I Am One”, “Rhinoceros”
and “Tristessa” as this former local Chicago act was actively looking
to explode beyond its regional boundaries with a guitar mojo that found a
meeting point between Kevin Shields and Brian May. Gish is the only
recording in the 20-odd years the Pumpkins have been an entity in the rock
universe that feels like it comes from a totally organic place, where the input
of all four members felt vital, a democratic structure that would quickly erode
with subsequent releases. 

 

This deluxe edition
of Gish is chock-a-block with quality bonus material, including a gang
of previously unreleased demos from the era, updated remixes of such essential
non-LP tracks as the epic “Starla” and “La Dolly Vita”
along with their killer cover of the Animals’ “Girl Named Sandoz”
from the band’s first John Peel session originally featured on Pisces
Iscariot
and an alternative rendition of the group’s mind-melting
contribution to the soundtrack for Cameron Crowe’s grung-era rom-com Singles.
Also included is a DVD featuring an early 10-song set from The Metro in Chicago
during the summer of 1990, punctuated by an acoustic version of the album track
“Crush” and a wild run through the Edgar Winter Group’s AOR smash
“Godzilla”. 

 

By the time the
Pumpkins entered the studio to record to follow-up to Gish, Corgan was
already drunk on the band’s newfound national acclaim and was bent on making
their major-label debut the perfect pop record. It was a goal that saw the
guitarist assume a draconian sense of control, allegedly causing Chamberlin’s
hands to bleed after forcing him to do countless takes on lead single
“Cherub Rock” and overdubbing D’Arcy’s and Iha’s parts with his own
playing.   The group’s label at the time, Virgin Records, grew concerned
after the LP went over budget and was turned in late following Corgan’s
stubborn refusal to compromise the process in addition to the cornucopia of
interpersonal issues within the group itself, including Chamberlin’s
increasingly problematic drug addiction, the dissolution of Iha and D’Arcy’s
romantic involvement and Corgan’s own struggles with crippling depression and a
serious bout of writer’s block. Siamese Dream is a quintessential
exercise in OCD within the context of rock ‘n’ roll, one that falls right in
line with The Beach Boys’ SMiLE and Pink Floyd’s The Wall in
terms of being primary case studies on the subject. But Corgan was clearly
doing something right in the maintenance of his vice-like grip over the making
of Siamese Dream, as the 13 songs comprising the group’s sophomore
favorite saw the singer–with Vig once again in tow–refine the band’s sonic
core into something more appealing to both their audience and the suits at MTV
and rock radio. The LP yielded four bonafide hits in the aforementioned
anti-indie war cry “Cherub”, “Today”–the first song Corgan
wrote after snapping out of his block, “Rocket” and
“Disarm” in addition to such cult fan faves as “Soma”,
“Mayonnaise” and “Luna”, three of the loveliest tunes in
the SP canon that continue to resonate across the emotional ocean surrounding
the aging population of Geek U.S.A. to this very day. 

 

In the extensive
interview with Corgan conducted by veteran music scribe David Wild featured in
the liner notes to Siamese Dream (as well as Gish), Billy admits
how the record initially began as something much rawer and more intense, closer
to the cloth of its nihilistic crescendo “Silverfuck” than the sweet,
string-drenched “Spaceboy”. And several of the previously unreleased
demos, rough mixes and outtakes included on the second disc of Dream indeed
give insights into the inherit direction the Pumpkins originally undertook
before Corgan set his sights on the top of the Billboard charts instead of the
CMJ charts, evident in the visceral nature of such rare nuggets as
“STP”, “Moleasskiss” and the ultra rare title cut, which is
a revelation in and of itself, so good its a shock that it never made the final
cut. Additional highlights include a previously released cover of Depeche
Mode’s “Never Let Me Down” from the band’s 1993 BBC Sessions,
acoustic renditions of “Spaceboy” and “Disarm” and an
instrumental spin on “Soma” that will take your breath away. The DVD
portion of the set is another engagement at The Metro from August of ’93, long
considered one of the group’s finest performances in their history, highlighted
by bombastic live versions of “Quiet”, “Geek U.S.A.”
and “Bury Me” from Gish as well as a version of
“Starla” for the ages. 

 

As we enter 2012, the
Smashing Pumpkins are still very much an active entity in our music world, as
this current incarnation of the group is deep in the process of a 44-song
project entitled Teagarden By Kaleidyscope, the first portion of
which–a 13-track “album within an album” called Oceania–will
be released in the early part of the new year. And as it stands, it seems as
though Billy has found a version of his group that he is happy with for now,
one that includes 19-year-old drum prodigy Mike Byrne, guitarist Jeff Schroeder
and bassist Nicole Fiorentino. However, any chance of the original line-up
reuniting anytime soon doesn’t seem to be likely whatsoever. Chamberlin, who
stuck it out with Corgan since returning to the fold in 2000 for the first Machina/The
Machines of God
album, announced his departure again from the fold in 2009
for undisclosed reasons. D’Arcy, once one of the hottest girls in rock back in
the SP heyday, is a literal human train wreck of a woman who did not have a
good 2011 at all, spending six days in jail for letting her horses run free
from her Michigan farm and also getting arrested for drunk driving. Iha,
meanwhile, recently joined the ranks of Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan’s side
project A Perfect Circle in addition to his duties in the unlikely power pop
supergroup Tinted Windows alongside Fountains of Wayne bassist Adam
Scheslinger, Taylor Hanson and Cheap Trick drummer Bun E. Carlos. 

 

Who knows how the new
bunch will fare under the iron rule of King Corgan. But given this double
barreled reminder of the sheer power and beauty on display across the din of
these first two Smashing Pumpkins albums, these pups have some serious shoes to
fill.

DOWNLOAD: “I Am One”,
“Rhinoceros”, “Bury Me”, “Starla (2011 Mix)”,
“Girl Named Sandoz”, “Drown (alternate guitar solo)”,
“Cherub Rock”, “Mayonnaise”, “Luna”,
“Siamese Dream (Broadway rehearsals demo)”, “Never Let Me Down
Again (BBC Session)”, “Soma (Instrumental Mix)” RON HART

 

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