Friday, April 03, 2009

FDF Volume 2: Issue 133 - Smashing Pumpkins - Gish

By: March

Album - Gish
Artist - The Smashing Pumpkins
Key Players - James Iha - Guitar. D'Arcy Wretzky -Bass. Jimmy Chamberlin - drums. Billy Corgan - guitar and lead vocals.
Produced By - Butch Vig and Billy Corgan

Release Date - May 28, 1991

What caused me to blow off the dust? - All the news as of late with Billy breaking things off with long time drummer Jimmy Chamberlin got me yearning for "simpler times" and this, to me is still their absolute best record...period.

Overview - The debut record from Chicago band Smashing Pumpkins was named after a silent film star. The band would record this record quickly and release to critical acclaim but it would just barely crack the Billboard Top 200 hitting 195. The band would tour for this record, and as they began to ready the next record the band was included on the "Singles" sound track,
(Forgotten Disc Friday review) thus lumping them as part of the "Seattle/grunge" sound. The band would catapult in to super stardom and tour the world time and time again. In fighting and a touring band members drug overdose would see the band begin to fracture. Iha and D'Arcy left the band. The band would have its ups and downs from that point forward to their current status, just Corgan with every intention to keep the band alive.

FDF Comments (aka the songs) - Marching drums and a solid bass line bring up "I Am One" with big guitar chords. Iha and Corgan step in in to overdrive and Chamberlin hits the ride cymbal before Corgan takes the lead into the first verse. The vocals are never the strong point (on this or any pumpkins song for that matter) but the gruff/gravel that Corgan pushes the lyrics with fits the overall vibe of the tune. The band is tight to change directions, allowing single guitar notes to ring out with D'Arcy and Chamberlin filling in the voids. Corgan flashes a short solo early in the tune before the be band locks in back in. A blistering album opener, setting the tone for what is in store. The dual guitar solo that leads to the D'Arcy breakdown is also a great touch before the chaos returns to wrap up the track. A solo guitar riff into a chorused guitar opens up "Siva". The guitars buzz and the bass has a cool punchy yet smooth feel to it. Chamberlins drums are mic'd perfectly on this and his snare strikes punch thru the speakers. The buzzy guitar feeds of the bass and the second guitar will flash over that with solo and longer guitar runs. The song has a breakdown as well, with Corgan relaxing vocally and the guitars getting light. About a verse worth of lyrics is sung/whispered before Chamberlin and Corgan bring in back in. The band does the break down a second time, but doesn't have as much vocals. Corgan whispers "I just wanna get there faster" and the song comes ripping back in. Corgan gives it a "YEaaaaaaaaaaaaah" and the band is hitting down hard once more. They repeat the chorus a few times before wrapping it up. The longest track on the disc "Rhinoceros" follows. Tracking in just over six minutes thirty seconds its a much more psychedelic feeling track. The bass has a nice swoop. The guitars follow suit with a much more laid back, yet a specific "chime" to them. Corgan is more laid back vocally for the first part. We keep pretty even for the first 3:30 of the track before the distortion pedals get a little more of a work out. A flashy solo with harder drums fills the track for a bit and the vocals return. The song continues at a certain pace, but grows in intensity before culminating in a looped/phased/delays guitar loop that leads right in to "Bury Me". One of the most rocking tunes the band ever did. A long guitar note is held as the rhythm section kick off. Iha has good chops on a repeated riff before Corgan bleeds over the top. The band sets the bar really high for a rocking guitar band that is for sure. One of the best moments on the record, listen for it, is the drum roll that Chamberlin does when he does a roll with rim shot on every 4th beat. He does this a few times on the record, but when you hear it once, you hear it a few times. The guitar switches to a slower pace with just a single guitar and drums before everyone comes back. The outro solo is to die for with the high notes on the lead guitar looping. I always say that if you find yourself singing a guitar part rather than the vocals you know you are on to something. Corgan runs the riff a series of times while Iha keeps the solid guitar line underneath. As it ends you feel as exhausted as the band must be. "Crush" is a much more quiet tune. The bass runs the scale(s) as an acoustic guitar feeds off a subtle electric guitar line. The whine of Corgan is heavy in this track since his vocals are more up front. The track is a decent enough change of pace from what we have heard and runs the risk of being dull, but the band picks up the guitar and vocal a little more as it progresses. It blends well with the next track "Suffer". It also has the same sort of feel as the prior track with a smoother and slower feel. There is a longer instrumental interlude 3+ minutes in to the track. It slowly builds stronger and stronger too, mostly thru the bass line before the drums get going more. The track fades almost seamless to "Snail". Another track, that at the outset seems laid back before the guitars clank down. Iha and Corgan feed off each other perfect on this track. One holding the longer notes and the other doing more of the runs. The guitar sound they both get is often duplicated but its got such a "ommmf" sound to it. Corgan has a longer solo and the band slows it down before starting with the lines "When you wake up yell away" and the guitar lines come back in a fury but we try to slow it down..only to have it swell to a massive guitar section played over the second guitar and bass running the same series of notes. Chamberlin plays like an 8 armed juggernaut at points and it all ends on a simple chord. A buried classic is "Tristessa". Here Chamberlin gets to show off his chops. The bass gets pushed up in the mix and the dual guitar lock down. Chamberlins drum roll/rim shot is really up front after the first verse. Like most of the other songs there is a quiet interlude but that doesn't last long before a solo comes in. An outstanding track.. The dark and mellow "Window Paine" keeps a somber mood for a good 2:15 of its 5+ minute length before the guitars get a work out. Even at that point its a lot of single big guitar chords with the bass and drums keeping the song at a pace. Chamberlin drum rolls things into a fury at the end as the bass and guitars follow suit and we get faster and faster without getting too "campy" either. They fool you thinking its going to end on a down note, but it all comes back..and hard too to wrap it up. The album closes with "Daydream" a track that D'Arcy takes the lead vocals on. The track is short and acoustic driven and that leads in a final "hidden track" called "I'm Going Crazy" which begins at about the 2 minute mark of Daydream.

Where are they now? - Well the band lost Iha and D'Arcy and soldered on under the Pumpkins moniker. They'd shuffle band members, Corgan would release a solo record (as would Chamberlin) and Corgan would form and disband a group called Zwan. The band would re-form once more after Corgan put out a full page ad in a newspaper. Chamberlin joined the fold once more and the band released another studio record. In 2008 the band toured celebrating the 20th anniversary of being a band (without Iha and D'Arcy) and the shows were met with mixed reviews, mostly due to Corgan berating the audience. In recent weeks Corgan and Chamberlin have parted ways. Corgan is currently looking for a drummer and Chamberlin will continue to work as a solo artist. Iha is now part of a pop/rock band called Tinted Windows and before that released a solo record and worked with A Perfect Circle. Wretzky who battled drug and alcohol problems while in the band has since cleaned up and has remained largely out of the public eye.

FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live experience)
- The very first time and still the very best was in the summer of 1991 on the Gish Tour. The show was at TT The Bears and it was about 120 degrees inside the venue. TT's had run a series of shows for a week called "Lollypops and Booze" ( a spoof of Lollapaloosa) and I had the chance to see them there. The band was still "small enough" they were setting up their own gear. By the first tune the place exploded and I had to find a "cooler" spot to watch. To this day the hottest show I have ever been to, and one of the finest. The next time was indoors at Boston University's Walter Brown Arena, where the Smashing Pumpkins were the middle slot band. The opener for the show was some little known at the time Seattle band called "Pearl Jam" (No Code on Forgotten Disc Friday) and the headliner was the Red Hot Chili Peppers (Uplift Mofo Party Plan on Forgotten Disc Friday). Yep..its okay..go back and read those last few lines. On August 3, 1994 the love affair I had with the band was heavily strained after a beyond lackluster headlining slot at Lollapaloosa. The day was nice enough, but the traffic was so bad getting there even some of the BANDs didn't make it in time for their sets. Corgan was a whining baby and I think we even left because we were worried about another major pain for a commute. The final time was at the Orpheum Theater in Boston on July 31, 1998. I had 4th row center seats and it was again, one of the more lackluster sets I had seen from the band. It was largely acoustic based, but was not an "unplugged" show. It was more frustrating than anything. That was the last time I gave the band my money for a live show.

FDF Overall Take
- There is no doubt I am in the minority thinking this is their best album, but when it comes down to it, this is one of the most explosive rock records you will ever hear. It hard, heavy and fast at times but keeps a perfect balance. The guitar work is great, the drumming is out of this world. The band I hope is very proud of this record. They'd have flashes of brilliance that were on this record from time to time throughout their career and one hopes that they find it again, at least some of it, and they will be back on top once more.

Smashing Pumpkins Official site and myspace pages.
James Iha on myspace and his new band "Tinted Windows" on myspace.
Jimmy Chamberlin official site here

Curious? Check out some MUSIC!



The tracks were taken from "Gish" which you can buy here.

Bonus Download!

Smashing Pumpkins
Live at the Whiskey A Go Go
Los Angeles, CA
December 12, 1991

(liberated bootleg called "Daydream Kisses")

Bury Me
Window Paine
I Am One

Disclaimer - For the most part songs listed you can find on iTunes or your local cd shop. The idea is to give you a little taste of the music. Please support the artist buy purchasing some of their work. Songs are posted for about 1 week but can and will be removed at the request of the artist, band, band management etc. If you are one of those persons contact me via the email link in the profile and they will be removed as soon as we are made aware of the request.


At 10:11 AM, Blogger Travis Erwin said...

Hey, a band I actually know. I even saw them in concert once.

At 1:02 PM, Anonymous george said...

I saw that same tour with the Chilis and Pearl Jam. I saw them at that venue that was near an amusement park...Rocky Point? It's all so hazy. Pearl Jam were amazing, as was the Chilis, but the Pumpkins bored us with long listless feedback jams. And like yourself, they also snoozed me at Lollopalooza. Did I happen to mention Billy Corgan is a jackass?

At 12:24 AM, Blogger Will said...

Your analysis is dead on, this album slays their later work. I remember being so excited for Siamese Dream to find they had "Nevermind"ed it to a pounding repetitive bore. Whatever minor subtleties Corgan found with his vocals on Gish dissolved into a self-satire whisper/scream lamefest. The man can shred a fucking guitar solo though.

At 4:24 PM, Blogger March to the Sea said...

Hey Will thanks for the comment. A buddy of mine and I always say this is their finest. Corgan ripped solos on this, the band was tight..oh man. Good stuff. Corgan needs to toss the ego and he might actually do something interesting again..we shall see.

Thanks for reading and the comment.


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