You’ve gotta love The Smashing Pumpkins. A band that gave a generation of pissed off teens in America something to mosh to in the 90’s. I know several other groups came along or were present at the time, especially punk bands, but The Smashing Pumpkins were fucking loud. ‘Gish’ is their debut record, released in 1991. During the recording, Corgan was so obsessed about the sound that he insisted on record almost all instruments himself apart from drums, despite being part for a four member band! This lead on to what would be the beginning of Pumpkins woes, as a decade of internal war and drug use took it’s toll on the band.
Most bands go out and record a whole bunch of albums over time, with their sound changing and ‘maturing’ as they go along. Their first album might not be their ‘sound’ just yet, but by the time the 3rd one comes around they say they finally know who they are. With ‘Gish‘, it seem’s to me that The Smashing Pumpkins already had their sound nailed down. Their first three records all seem to follow the same tone, before a shift in sound with ‘Adore’. I’m saying this because if you’ve heard ‘Siamese Dream‘ or ‘Mellon Collie..’ and loved them but feared tracing back to The Smashing Pumpkins roots, then fear not. The album opener ‘I Am One’ is classic Smashing Pumpkins. That loud grunge sound rolling in on some drums and guitar before they really hit the switch. The small break around the 3 minute mark is something you can expect to hear from a few Smashing Pumpkins songs down the line, bit of a pause followed by the drums and guitar reintroducing themselves in spectacular fashion. ‘Siva’ and ‘Rhinoceros’ are two popular Smashing Pumpkins tracks and you would probably know them from hearing them on the radio or in certain clubs anyway. ‘Siva’ would be similar to the album opener in fairness, and going by these two tracks would almost expect the album to be completely grunge. It’s when ‘Rhinoceros’ comes along that you sense there could be a change as it is slightly more of a progressive/hard rock sound.
‘Bury Me’ starts off bass heavy and includes some decent shredding with vocals by both Corgan and D’arcy. It’s heavy again but showcases SP’s many talents. It’s actually a class track, hard as nails but well structured. ‘Crush’ is a softer track and has a psychedelic rock sound, much more so than any other track. Also a bit of dream pop as you find yourself falling into the song. ‘Suffer’ also continues this sound but it’s a good thing because it kind of splits the album right in the middle. Smashing Pumpkins give you a look at their more delicate and constructive side with these two tracks.
The stand out track here for me is ‘Snail’. It reintroduces the pace and sound of the album. The intro is catchy as hell which is followed rather predictably but SP usual guitar and drum sound. That’s not a bad thing though they’re just using the formula they know best. I only found this track when I bought the album and I was surprised that it wasn’t included in their well known greatest hits record, ‘Rotten Apples‘. As I said previously ‘Snail’ reintroduces the rock sound and ‘Tristessa’ keeps it going. Loud and hard but excellent guitar work again. ‘Window Paine’ is probably one of only two songs that actually bring peace and power together within themselves. Starting slowly, it gets louder before the drums literally being to increase the pace of the track. The guitar tries to keep up and you ears are given a run for their money. Keep up. We’re see out with ‘Daydream’, a lovely track actually mostly sung by D’arcy which features the cello and violin. Corgan comes in to tell us he’s gone “motherfucking crazy” before the track plays out.
My experience with the Smashing Pumpkins comes from their first four records. I’ve dropped in and out of records beyond that such as the more recent ‘Oceania’ but it’s just not the same. Similar to my feelings regarding The Killers, I just find the earlier music better. There’s more effort, more of who they really are. If you’re not a SP fan just yet, start from scratch. You get a solid foundation of who they are and what to expect from their records. Also, don’t write them off straight away if you feel they’re too dark of heavy. It’s worth it, believe me!