Friday, February 20, 2009

Music Day: February 20

It's time for another day devoted to one band; I've already done Soundgarden and Alice in Chains. Today will be the Smashing Pumpkins, in chronological order of major release, as always. That starts us at Gish, then Siamese Dream, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, Adore, and finishing with Machina/The Machines of God. They have a more recent album, Zeitgeist, with a different lineup that I will not be considering.

I actually saw the new lineup Smashing Pumpkins last fall in an acoustic setting; I have heard spotty, at best, reviews of their live performances, and the set didn't do a lot to modify that viewpoint.

I'm listening to the pleasantly under-appreciated Gish right now, updates to follow throughout the day...

Gish: “Crush” is a great effort; many people are quick to point to the ability of the Pumpkins to use a wide range of effects on their later albums to create a fuller effect, but even Gish has a great sense of feel and very appropriate harmonizing. I wrote earlier that, in general, alternative music of the early to mid-1990s were collections of outstanding songs as opposed to collections of great albums. On the whole, the Smashing Pumpkins were probably the best at creating albums amongst the group.

D’arcy Wretzky is a very underrated bassist and carries portions of Gish; “Suffer” is a good example.

I believe that I read at one point that Gish came out around the same time as Nevermind, and therefore didn’t get a large amount of appreciation at the time. It’s certainly stronger than it gets credit for; many people believe that the Pumpkins as we know them started with Siamese Dream, but that’s simply not the case.

“Day Dream” has a Beatles feel to it.

Gish is more middle of the road than I remember; I'd say, easily, that it's the most conservative of the albums, though Adore is clearly #2 and everyone seems to miss that point when it comes to that album. But that's later in the day...on to Siamese Dream.

Siamese Dream: Siamese Dream is enough to establish a career on, and would be known now to the Pumpkins as their Ten or Nevermind if it weren’t for them topping themselves impressively on their subsequent double album. Corgan is a very good songwriter though I can’t sign on with him like I can with some other effective writers of the period; I’ll attribute it to personal preference. Corgan, I believe, is also one of the few singers that also plays lead guitar. He also played all of the bass parts on Siamese Dream. His voice is shrill for effect but I’d say both Layne Staley and Axl Rose had similarly unique voices that used them a lot better.

“Rocket” is particularly strong, though if we’re talking about making effective albums, which they do on the whole, the jump to “Disarm” just doesn’t work. “Cherub Rock” may well have the most recognizable instrumental introduction of the period. (Others? I’m drawing a blank here.) “Soma” has a great guitar line throughout, something the Pumpkins are not particularly known for. “Geek USA” is as underrated as “Today” is overrated.

I’ve always thought James Iha was overrated. I’m appreciating the bass lines today more than anything else, both on Gish and here on Siamese Dream, they are very very well done, I don’t remember enjoying them this much before, it’s very pleasant.

1 comment:

Dana said...

The song the never got enough credit was Mayonnaise on Siamese Dream. Completely agree about Gish. I think I like Gish more than Siamese Dream... but that might also have to do more with the fact that my copy of Siamese Dream is worn to the point where Hummer (track 4) doesn't even play anymore.