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Gish Deluxe Edition, Siamese Dream Deluxe Edition

Gish Deluxe Edition, and Siamese Dream Deluxe Edition (EMI / Virgin)

Reviewed by Kevin Curtin, Fri., Feb. 10, 2012

Reissues

The Smashing Pumpkins

Gish Deluxe Edition (EMI/Virgin)
Siamese Dream Deluxe Edition (EMI/Virgin Records)

An opus of angst and unyielding psych-guitar called Gish brought the Smashing Pumpkins to light in 1991. No hits, but it did have balls, and whether the Chicago quartet was all roaring distortion on "Siva" or whispering love on "Crush," it did so with boldness and a single-minded attention to the almighty riff. Such was the explosive, if culturally low-key, introduction to Gen X's third favorite alt.rock band. Two things happened after Gish that completely changed the group: Billy Corgan got in touch with his feelings, and he decided to write pop songs like "Today" and "Luna" that resulted in 1993's Siamese Dream, a defining album that amplified the emotion ("Disarm"), while maintaining the guitar authority ("Rocket," "Cherub Rock"). Welcome the salad days, before infighting, drugs, and, worse yet, electro-gothic influences sent the Smashing Pumpkins on a slow walk downhill. Both of these shiny deluxe editions brim with old pictures and new art – unearthed/designed by local Heavy Light Records' co-honcho Noel Waggener – plus the remastered CD, a live DVD, and a bonus disc of demos, remixes, and a half-handful of unreleased songs not appearing on earlier B-sides comp, Pisces Iscariot. Gish extras include the original recording of "Tristessa" and a version of "Drown" that escalates into a grating noise-guitar finale, while immensely fuzzed-out and forgotten "Moleasskiss" and an instrumental mix of "Soma" highlight the Siamese Dream bonuses. Corgan's depressed act is in full effect on the highly sentimental liner notes and an annotated track-by-track list, in which he describes songs using incoherent poetry about "mustard lies" and singing songs for the moon. The best are the concerts, the Gish-era performance turning up an unfamiliar visual: drummer Jimmy Chamberlain looking like a doppelgänger for The Breakfast Club's John Bender, guitarist James Iha and bassist D'Arcy Wretzky looking happy, and a long-haired Corgan in a puffy shirt shredding indiscriminately and going Nietzsche on the audience by declaring that "rock is dead." Two decades later, it's the Smashing Pumpkins that are mostly dead, but these weighty collections still earn and own those bronze medals. (Both) ***.5

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