The Smashing Pumpkins | Pisces Iscariot (EMI)

cd pumpkinsThe reissue makes me wish we still had music like this on Top 40 radio.


Billy Corgan and the Smashing Pumpkins have an interesting place in my musical library. I go from being a fan, to being annoyed, to being obsessed. It has been years since I pulled out Pisces Iscariot, so when the opportunity came to getting my hands on the reissue, I knew that I had to give it a proper re-listen.

Growing up in the ’90s meant quite a few things, but for me, it meant alt-rock, ripped jeans, and music. Having an older sister helped quite a bit when it came to hearing alternative rock bands and finding the ones that really would have an impact on me. I still think that, without the Smashing Pumpkins, I wouldn’t enjoy the same distortion effects when playing guitar—but that is probably the more obsessive side of me than the rational one.

Released in between albums, Pisces Iscariot was a compilation of B-sides that were previously unreleased, but that was and is still hard for me to believe. It seems much more like an album that the Pumpkins weren’t sure they would want to tour in support of, but it may have deserved that treatment. Originally released in the infamous year of 1994, our generation’s version of 1968, it was quite the hit for an album of castoffs.

“Landslide” was the single, an acoustic track with reverb-drenched vocals covering a Fleetwood Mac song that almost everyone would recognize once they heard it, but probably couldn’t name when thinking of Smashing Pumpkins hits. This was only a minor feature of the album, though, as it was filled with tracks that could have stood the test of time on many of their releases.

“Plume” is my favorite song on Pisces Iscariot. With distorted guitars, bright vocals, and solid percussion, it acts as a definition of what I believe the Smashing Pumpkins sound like. The track was also a single, but not until 1992. The screaming solo is more like something I would have expected from Dinosaur, Jr., at the time, but add in Corgan’s vocals and the simplistic, constant percussion, and it is undoubtedly the Smashing Pumpkins. “Frail and Bedazzled” is another great track. Again, it could not be mistaken for anyone else, capturing the sound that the Smashing Pumpkins manufactured—and mastered.

It is hard to give a fair review to something that had such an impact on you at a young age. The album isn’t perfect and the band isn’t one that I listen to regularly anymore, but it is sentimental. It makes me wish we still had music like this on Top 40 radio, that people still wanted solid songs written by someone who had something others didn’t. Corgan has a sordid history: He pissed off a lot of people and turned even more away with his attitude, but even the those, myself included, who sometimes found it hard to like him as a person can’t deny the prowess of the music.

All in all, this reissue is something that people like me have to have. It isn’t the original, but with the included cassette tape, bonus disc, and all the sentiment that goes along with listening to the album, it is hard to deny that it isn’t worth the money. I mean, hell, you have probably already spent too much on Smashing Pumpkins releases if you have read this far. Needless to say, I enjoyed the Pisces Iscariot reissue; it isn’t anything new, but that is probably what makes it so special. | Alex Hodschayan

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