There is no doubt that the nineties was a very musically involved era. From the grunge uproar to the late nineties alternative scene, and even the 70's glam revival lead by newcomer Lenny Kravitz. Specific groups belonged in specific genres, and there really wasn't that much musical exploration going on. Possibly the most influenced of the nineties bands was Billy Corgan's brainchild the Smashing Pumpkins, who burst onto the scene in 1991, with their debut Gish, a somewhat underappreciated rock album with a very fast tempo, featuring the Pumpkins armed with little more than a disortion pedal, a large drumset, and their secret weapon Billy.
Defying what was popular at the time, the Pumpkins made their own map. In the early nineties, the biggest craze in the alternative rock world was undoubtedly grunge, lead by heavy-hitters Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Mudhoney, Alice in Chains and to some extent even Smashing Pumpkins were hooked into it. But the Pumpkins were alternative junkies at heart, though not often heard on their first release Gish, a explorative record traveling through seventies era hard rock, hippie music and even some glam rock in their too. The journey was very hearfelt, if ridiculous. Enough of this, though, onto the album.
Smashing Pumpkins; Gish
Released 1991 Virgin Records
Billy Corgan: Vocals, guitars
James Iha: Guitars, vocals
D'arcy (Wretzky): bass, lead vocals on Daydream
Jimmy Chamberlain: Drums and Percussion
This album has a very fast feel to it, though that's not the main focus of the Pumpkins here. They bring us such slow songs with heartfelt melodies as Rhinocerous
, a slow paced song with relaxing vocals, ascending/descending guitar riffs, pronounced bass and laid back drums, and some trademark lyrics, especially in the chorus;
And she knows, and she knows, and she know...hows.
Relaxing as it is, the chorus rolls around where they kick their distortion boxes and play the heart out of those basic chords, and ascending scales and often signature solos/riffs. The bass is also very entertaining, as it climbs up the neck recklessly and delivers the drive to the song, compliments of D'arcy. Ending perfectly, with a bang. Crush
is even better, showcasing acoustic guitars and tremolo electrics, joyful vocals, and a completely relaxing atmosphere. The chorus kicks in, and it hardly changes. Keep your eyes closed, it's not over for a while. Silence befalls the song, interrupted occasionally with chords. By now, one asks "Where's the hard rock"", and the answer is: there is none. It's a straighthrough relaxing song that triggers the daydreaming switch inside of you. The last relaxing song is Daydream
features a vocal performance by bassists D'arcy (whom I have a wee crush on), who provides a darker tone to the song. Trudging acoustic guitars and barely noticable strings are the strongest musical performance on the album, though not neccesarily the best. A lull, and then an interlude with the repeating vocals by Billy:
Surely, we're not though. We're eager for more, but not much else comes our way, except a beautiful ending.
The best harder songs on the album are arguably the the slower ones. They embody power and brain, as well as some ear-carching riffs. But, alas, some might get relatively tired by the repetetive riffs shown here, but the majority will no doubt be satisfied with the head-bangability. The best of the harder songs, Siva
, showcases a signature riff which overlaps the same riff but in a different key. The vocals enter, sounding as mean as some of the stuff seen on Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness
. Angry as they are though, you can't help just wanting to pick up a guitar and mimic the seriously rockin' (excuse that term. Plase.) solos in the middle of the bridge, the powerful breakdown, and the quiet as hell chorus complete with g-chords and the like. Keep your seatbelt fastened, though, as another huge solo comes in, compliments of Billy (Or James, but I think he does the other ones.). Another quiet bridge comes, with minor chords and darker vocals. Another solo enters, and breaks the ground of the album officially; a hard rocking album with little to offer but some shark-toothed riffs and large, grand ... pretty much everything else. I Am One
is not as good, but it's a great rocker with strong chords and vocal abilities. Again, the bass is the foundation and support, while the guitars are allowed to go crazy throughout the song, especially following chorus' and in the beginning. The vocals are about as fierce as a rhino, and the chorus embraces the group's need to rock. Great drumming courtesy of Jimmy, with some of the strongest snare you will hear by the Pumpkins. For sheer enjoyment, you can definetley do worse than listen to this song.
Unfortunately, the album can run stale, and some songs sound almost identical, though they're equally enjoyable. Plus, the solos can get pretty tedious and annoying. Otherwise, a fantastic listen worthy of your cd collection, and though Siamese Dream
surpasses it in many ways, it's a very humble beginning from a very good band. Overall a smashing (pun inteded) album with some unbelievable songs and some very good lyrics.
Thanks for reading,