Sunday, December 18, 2011

Smashing Pumpkins - Siamese Dream (remastered deluxe edition)

Smashing Pumpkins - Siamese Dream (remastered deluxe edition)
Capitol Records/EMI Music

It seems like a lot of bands are going back to their roots, or successes. When U2 finally made it onto the Glastonbury stage this year their set list was a homage to the 20 year old Achtung Baby and Joshua Tree numbers. Counting Crows recently re-released their breakthrough debut August And Everything After as a live album. Countless other bands have recently re-formed, often to play their most successful albums in their entirety.

So it comes as no surprise that Smashing Pumpkins, and front man Billy Corgan, who have struggled recently with new releases should fall back upon the beginning and breakout of their fame - 1991’s debut album: Gish and their phenomenal follow up release - 1993’s Siamese Dream.

These two deluxe re-issues are beautiful presentations. Each comes with the following:

1. Deluxe versions of Gish and Siamese Dream will each include a bonus disc of rare and previously unreleased audio content.
2. Deluxe versions of Gish and Siamese Dream also contain a never-before-released live show from the Metro in Chicago on DVD. The 10-song live show in the Gish package is from 8/25/90; the 17-song live show in the Siamese Dream package is from 8/14/93. Both DVDs feature introductions by Joe Shanahan, owner of the Metro in Chicago.
3. The Gish bonus disc will include brand new Butch Vig mixes of the original Sub Pop single tracks “Tristessa” and “La Dolly Vita.”
4. Housed in special lift-top box packaging, the deluxe versions feature liner notes and track by track commentary from Billy Corgan, never-before-seen collages and photos, postcards and more.

The boxes really are a treasure trove for a Pumpkins fan packed with more information about the records than you could possibly ask for.

Smashing Pumpkins had always been popular in their native Chicago and had built up a large following through Gish, but when gruge and indie music took off in the early ‘90s they had a chance to become superstars. As Billy Corgan explains in the expansive booklet, the record company wanted to re-release Gish for the masses but Corgan stubbornly explained that what they really needed was a new album. He had better learn to write some pop songs.

This was a good choice. Revising Gish now, confirms that it starts off with good songs like Siva and Rhinoceros but pads the rest out with filler material. It has the roots of the Pumpkins - big guitars, good riffs and Darcy Wretzky’s strong basslines. It was only the start of Corgan’s songwriting journey.
The booklet intricately chronicles the difficult writing and recording of Siamese Dream. An album which almost destroyed the band, and almost ended Billy Corgan’s life, as sung about on Today.

Siamese Dream was and still is an excellent album. The remastering vividly brings the hits to life adding punch, emphasis and energy to already great recordings. Cherub Rock has to be one of the greatest album openings ever with that timeless riff building and building before finally exploding. The rest of the album has many familiar hits - Today, Disarm, and Rocket, all sounding better than ever.

The rarities will please devoted Smashing Pumpkins fans and is an interesting diversion but will probably not use up much of your airwaves after an initial listen. A lot of the demos have been featured before on Pisces Iscariot and there are some other versions - such as a 6 minute version of Siamese Dream itself, and some instrumental songs called USA and USSR.

The DVD however is well worth a watch. Never before released it shows the band at the Metro club in Chicago at the launch for Siamese Dream. While the picture quality isn’t great, the sound recording is perfect and shows a high energy, moshing sweaty performance. Billy Corgan is relaxed, chatting to the crowd and plays some wonderful solos.

All in all these deluxe versions are a must for any Smashing Pumpkins fans (Siamese Dream especially) and if you have never listened to the Pumpkins before they may well be a good introduction. But try their greatest hits record - Rotten Apples first.

Rating: 9/10