Smashing Pumpkins: Pisces Iscariot [Reissue]

Smashing Pumpkins
Pisces Iscariot
(Virgin Records)

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Sigh. Once upon a time, Billy Corgan was seemingly incapable of writing a bad song. And so it was that even the Smashing Pumpkins’ collection of b-sides and outtakes became an essential part of the band’s mid-90’s discography. As was often said at the time, the throwaways were better than most bands’ studio albums.

And after all this time, Pisces Iscariot’s impact has hardly dulled. The full range of classic Pumpkins emotion is demonstrated throughout with roaring riff-rockers (“Hello Kitty Kat,” “Pissant”), dreamy balladeering (“Whir,” “Obscured,” “Landslide,” “La Dolly Vita”), and even a bona fide classic space-rock jam (“Starla”). If anything, Pisces completes the picture presented on Gish and Siamese Dream. Like I said, it’s essential.

It benefits greatly from its remastering job (and thankfully not dynamically squashed as some do): the fuzz guitars are sizzling and almost seem to have greater sonic depth, and my ears detect clearer separation of instruments that almost puts you right into the room with the band. However the joy is somewhat killed by the version of “Plume” here, which for some reason features a different, lesser vocal take than the previously released version.

The 17-track bonus disc is loaded with goodies like obscure old demos, live cuts, and alternate mixes of other b-sides (even “Glynis” reappears!). Hardcore fans – those likely to buy this box in the first place – may already have a lot of this stuff, but if you don’t know much beyond the band’s studio albums, you’re in for a treat.

The gifts don’t even stop there: the cassette reproduction of the band’s first demo tape from 1989 is priceless, featuring hypnotic early rockers and new wavers from long ago (“Nothing and Everything,” “Jennifer Ever,” and “She” are essential listening).

Then there’s the pure-gold DVD, which features a full 1988 performance from the band as black-clad gothy new wavers; except for drummer Jimmy Chamberlin’s mullet and hokey 80’s sweater. There are also some fantastic early club gigs and a shot from Lollapalooza in 1994.

Whether you had this album once upon a time or perhaps still never checked it out, a treasure awaits you. The hits keep coming.

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About John Mordecai

John Mordecai is a musician and writer from New Haven, Conn. He was the bassist for Brooklyn-based ERAAS (formerly APSE), and also plays (sometimes) in New England-based Shark and Brooklyn's The Tyler Trudeau Attempt. He also maintains a blog (sometimes) at http://selfsensored.wordpress.com/
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