Smashing Pumpkins

Let’s trip the goth-fantastik through the Corgan-verse…

The Smashing Pumpkins band photo

STANDARD DISCLAIMER: Every post on this site is meant to be a constantly evolving diary of my musical views. Therefore, any and all posts should be considered incomplete at any given time.

The Smashing Pumpkins have been a real journey for me. I would consider myself a pretty big fan these days, but in my fickle youth, I pretty much dumped them somewhere between Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie. In all honesty, something about Corgan’s voice always bugged me a bit, and while I really liked “Today” and “Disarm”, the overexposure soured them on me and my “too cool for school” adolescent self.

My first Smashing Pumpkins memory comes from my elder brother, probably around 1991. He had a copy of either Gish or of Lull (or maybe of both) and I remember hearing “Rhinoceros” and thinking to my young self (12-ish), “Wow, this is different…kinda cool!” It stuck. Of course, that would have been right before Nirvana broke and the “music revolution” was unleashed upon the mainstream. Smashing Pumpkins was of the college rock variety back then, so they were still underground when I got my first sniff.

I remember owning a CD copy of Siamese Dream a few years later, but honestly, I’m not sure I ever listened to the whole thing. I was moving through phases of music appreciation at that point, and I must have sold that copy to buy a Snapcase record or something.

I remember the Mellon Collie craze, when Smashing Pumpkins were pretty much the biggest thing in the world for a bit of time. Even still in my mind that feels like a defining 90’s moment. And yes, even though I wasn’t into the SP’s back then, I knew “1979” was a fucking SPECIAL song. It has to be one of the greatest pop songs ever written.

I really didn’t even pay attention after that though. The existence of Adore and Machina barely registered with me, and then the Pumpkins called it quits.

So how did my perspective change?

Honestly, I’m not sure. At some point, I decided to re-visit their early stuff (Gish and Siamese eras) and I found a real appreciation for it. For example, “Hummer”. That is one incredible song. Of course, Siamese Dream is a masterpiece altogether, maybe the best record of that whole Alterna-mainstream era.

Regardless, the truth is that once you are back into the door of the Corgan-verse, there’s this unquantifiable gravity of fascination that pulls you further up and further in. Of course, it helps that there is an unbelieveable amount of Smashing Pumpkins material to sort through (sorry completists). In that regard, Smashing Pumpkins is like The Cure and Bruce Springsteen had a baby. This is a whole lotta sad pyschedelia to sort through. So on that note, let’s start the sorting…

ALBUMS

Smashing Pumpkins released 5 albums in the band’s original run, evolving from neo-psychedelic  grunge heroes through various stages. Corgan re-launched The Smashing Pumpkins in 2008 with Zeitgeist, and since then it has been constantly evolving into Corgan’s own brand of post-prog, even re-incorporating founding members James Iha and Jimmy Chamberlain. 

Gish

Release Year: 1991
My Rating: A

Smashing Pumpkins’ debut LP is an underground classic. Though overshadowed by Siamese Dream, it ranks up there with the likes of Murmur, Boy, and numerous other debuts that got some attention but were essentially forgotten in the wake of what would come later. It’s chock full of good stuff, but it stands out in my mind as this monolith. Where the Pumpkins would make a name for themselves via stylistic diversity on later records, Gish sounds like its opener portends: ONE. The exception is the absolutely gorgeous “Rhinoceros”, one of the best things to come out of the alternative era. It’s a slice of psychedelia done right, all dream-dazed with no threat of a headache. Honestly, I wish we’d gotten more records from this era, maybe some more EP’s or something, because I really do love this sound. Fortunately, the band has released a lot of material from its early era since it began the work of reissuing its back catalog in 2008, so check out my notes regarding the Deluxe Edition disc 2 below. 

HIGHLIGHTS: “I Am One”, “Rhinoceros”, “Crush”

Siamese Dream

Release Year: 1993
My Rating: A+

writeup coming soon 

HIGHLIGHTS: “Cherub Rock”, “Hummer”, “Siva”

Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness

Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness by The Smashing Pumpkins album cover

Release Year: 1995
My Rating: A

writeup coming soon  

HIGHLIGHTS: “1979”, “Thirty-Three”, “Tonight Tonight”, “X.Y.U.”

Adore

Adore by The Smashing Pumpkins album cover

Release Year: 1998
My Rating: C+
 

The Pumpkins took the direction of “1979” and sound sadder than early-80’s Cure here. This is cinematic soft-rock, and not much left of what made us all love Smashing Pumpkins in the first place. In retrospect, this was a bold move, and though Adore still sold a lot of records, it most certainly was a nosedive compared to Mellon Collie and Siamese. And though it’s not the first Pumpkins record I’m going to go for, it’s definitely one Pumpkins-heads can appreciate looking back. There’s a lot of solid electro-pop here. Still, despite its highlights, this would be one of the last Pumpkins records I’d reach for. If I wanted music like this, I’d go for a Sarah Maclachlan record. 

HIGHLIGHTS: “Perfect”

Machina / The Machines of God

Release Year: 2000
My Rating: B+

Machina brought back Jimmy Chamberlain, and I think that’s one of the things that makes it a success. It’s not just his playing, but it’s the inspiration that it seems to bring to Corgan and his songwriting. Now you should know, as of this writing, I’ve only listened to this LP a few times – it was part of that late 90’s era when it seemed like Corgan wanted to be Marilyn Manson and I wanted part of that at the time – but between this and the other record that era (Adore), I’ll take this one anyday. At least we get Chamberlain back, and the music has teeth, like a good Pumpkins record should. So I look forward to growing in appreciation of this record in the years to come, and I’ll be back to say more about it in the future, I’m sure. 

HIGHLIGHTS: “Stand Inside Your Love”

Machina II / The Friends & Enemies of Modern Music

Release Year: 2000
My Rating: TBD

 » thoughts coming soon 

HIGHLIGHTS: TBD

Zeitgeist

Release Year: 2007
My Rating: TBD

 » thoughts coming soon 

HIGHLIGHTS: TBD

Oceania

Release Year: 2012
My Rating: A

 » thoughts coming soon 

HIGHLIGHTS: “The Celestials”, “Pale Horse”

Monuments to an Elegy

Release Year: 2014
My Rating: B+

Oceania was a glorious return to form, the kind of Pumpkins record I’d been yearning for since rediscovering them around 2005 or so. On that note, I have to admit that Monuments didn’t grab me in the same way when it was first released, but now that I have assigned myself to give it another listen, I have to admit, it ain’t half bad. The heavy use of synths even gives it a distinctly “Mellon Collie”-feel. It’s interesting to note that it’s the last release in the Teargarden-cycle, of which Oceania was a part. Anyway, 2021, and I’m really starting to appreciate this one.

HIGHLIGHTS: “Being Beige”, “Drum + Fife”, “Monuments”, “Dorian”

Shiny and Oh So Bright, Vol. 1 / LP: No Past. No Future. No Sun.

Release Year: 2018
My Rating: B

Is this one even shorter than Monuments? I’m not sure, but the songs are about as strong. The more I listen to these recent records, the more I dig them. This one sounds positively Zwan-ish at times. My only major gripe is that I have a hard time figuring out just what Corgan is getting at with all of these outlandish themes. Maybe I need to ponder that album cover a bit more, but I don’t find it easy on the eyes. However, this is the 3rd solid record in a row after the letdown that was Zeitgeist, so I think it’s OK to say that the Pumpkins are truly back, especially with the return of Iha here.

HIGHLIGHTS: “Silvery Sometimes (Ghosts)”, “Solara”

Cyr

Release Year: 2020
My Rating: TBD

 » thoughts coming soon 

HIGHLIGHTS: TBD

OTHER MAJOR RELEASES

I have one question: how long until the DELUXE Expanded Edition of the rarities collection Aeroplane boxset?

Smashing Pumpkins have been insanely prolific. I seriously don’t understand how Billy Corgan keeps it up. This is a band that not only released 2 “odds and ends” collections in its mid-90’s heyday, but has actually released EXPANDED EDITIONS of those collections in addition to EXPANDED EDITIONS of their first 4 albums (with more EXPANDED EDITIONS TO COME). Seriously, has any other band ever issued massively expanded editions of its b-sides collections? In short, they are a superfan’s fantasy. So, yeah – I’ll cover what I can…

Pisces Iscariot

Release Year: 1994
My Rating: A

Does Pisces get enough credit? Let’s put aside the fact that it’s a great collection of tunes regardless of its historical context. 

HIGHLIGHTS: “Starla”, “Soothe”

The Aeroplane Flies High

Release Year: 1996
My Rating: TBD

» thoughts coming soon

HIGHLIGHTS: TBD

Gish Reissue Disc 2 (Trippin' Through the Stars)

Gish Deluxe Reissue by The Smashing Pumpkins album cover

Release Year: 2011
My Rating: TBD

» thoughts coming soon

HIGHLIGHTS: TBD

Siamese Dream Reissue Disc 2 (Lollipop Fun Time)

Siamese Dream by The Smashing Pumpkins album cover Deluxe Reissue

Release Year: 2011
My Rating: TBD

» thoughts coming soon

HIGHLIGHTS: TBD

Pisces Iscariot Reissue Disc 2 / Bonus Tape

Pisces Iscariot by The Smashing Pumpkins album cover deluxe reissueRelease Year: 2012
My Rating: TBD

» thoughts coming soon

HIGHLIGHTS: TBD

Mellon Collie Reissue Discs 3-5

Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness by The Smashing Pumpkins album cover deluxe reissueRelease Year: 2012
My Rating: B

With the Pumpkins’ first 3 reissues, the problem was wondering whether we’d gotten everything there was to get. With Mellon Collie, the problem is essentially the opposite: how am I supposed to sort through all of this? My biggest gripe with the bonus material here is that so much of it falls into the “alternate version” grouping, which causes the “rarities” in the purest sense (previously unreleased songs) to be obscured. I like it when the rarities are grouped in such a way that they tell a story themselves, especially in terms of chronicling the creative process that led to the final version of the album as well as what was left out. It’s not just about the music, but for me, as a completist, the story the collection of rarities tells. Still, maybe that is the narrative here: in creating what is probably their magnam opus, the Pumpkins were just insanely prolific. 

HIGHLIGHTS: “Feelium”, “

Aeroplane Reissue

The Aeroplane Flies High by The Smashing Pumpkins album cover deluxe reissue

Release Year: 2013
My Rating: TBD

» thoughts coming soon

HIGHLIGHTS: TBD

Adore Reissue Discs 3-5

Release Year: 2014
My Rating: TBD

» thoughts coming soon

HIGHLIGHTS: TBD

MISCELLANEOUS / RELATED

coming soon...

Zwan

Zwan album cover

Release Year: 2003
My Rating: TBD

» thoughts coming soon

HIGHLIGHTS: TBD

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