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Smashing Pumpkins
Gish, Siamese Dream [deluxe editions] - EMI
FILTER Grade: 91, 93%

By Nevin Martell on November 29, 2011

 

Smashing Pumpkins

Time has not been kind to Billy Corgan. During the Pumpkins’ dominance between 1990 and 2000, he was (sometimes rightfully) labeled a tyrant, an opportunist and a megalomaniac. These labels still dog him. Of course, Captain Zero didn’t do himself any favors during the intervening years by reforming the band with only Jimmy Chamberlin. Or by going completely cray-cray by dating Jessica Simpson, writing songs for Hyundai and diving deep into the world of pro-wrestling. The end result is a caricatured vision of a bald-headed freak who now gets more press for his messy personal life than for his music.

But look past all that drama and distraction. During the ’90s, Corgan was also one of the most potent and prolific forces in modern music. For a decade, no songwriter could match the quality and volume of his output. These lovingly remastered and richly expanded editions of the Smashing Pumpkins 1991 debut Gish and 1993’s mainstream breakthrough Siamese Dream soundly prove that the band’s place in rock history is firmly cemented. These are two of the best records made since 1990—bar none, hands down, no argument.

Bob Ludwig’s note-by-note, track-by-track overhaul revels in and reveals Corgan’s obsessive love of extreme nuance. There’s the warble of a whammy bar at the beginning of Siamese Dream’s “Rocket” that was buried in the original mix and the once overwhelmed, delicately tremulous plucked notes on Gish’s “Suffer.”

Each album comes with a DVD of a full live show, as well as a second disc of unreleased demos, alternate mixes and BBC sessions. These excavated extras aren’t just for completists—there are some top tunes here. The guitar line in the “Rocket” demo possesses a searing edge that the final version on Siamese Dream lost, while a newly unearthed version of the druggy epic “Drown”—which originally appeared on the Singles soundtrack, but is packaged with Gish—showcases an even freakier guitar solo. Even if these reissues don’t change your opinion of Corgan, they will remind you again and again why we started talking about him in the first place.

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