Album of the Month: Gish


by Smashing Pumpkins
Buy the reissue on Amazon

If I’m ever put on the spot with one of those “top ten albums of all time” questions, without hesitation, I’ll name Gish and then I’ll stumble around for while and name off albums that happen to be on high rotation at the time of the inquiry.  But Gish is always there.  In my mind it’s timeless and that has a lot of to with the lyrics. I don’t understand any of them.With Matthew Sweet’s Girlfriend, years after the album came out I was able to recite full songs verbatim because they were heartfelt stories about love, loss and longing.  With Gish, Billy Corgan is spouting off about messiahs, and trinities and who knows what else?  I can’t really relate, so the lyrics never got old or became pointless because they already were.  For me Gish is all about the music.  This album is sonically brilliant and made up of three main, musical themes:

  1. Building songs in layers.
  2. Loud/quiet/loud dynamics.
  3. Great sounding drums.

While I probably can’t recite the chorus of any track on Gish without a cheat sheet, you can be damn sure I can air drum/bass/guitar my way through all of them and not miss a lick.

Track 1: “I Am One” – ♥♥♥♥♥

Let’s talk about point number one, building songs in layers  which they nailed in the very first track.  The recipe: start with Jimmy Chamberlin’s dueling bass drum/toms, layer on the bass followed by the guitars and stir for close to minute before you start spouting off lyrics (see trinities and messiahs above).

Track 2: “Siva” – ♥♥♥♥♥

“Siva” was the first Pumpkins song I heard  saw on 120 Minutes.  I remember more than a few nights spent with a just some candles aflame while I listened to this track in the dark.   “Siva” is the prime example of the loud/quiet/loud dynamic in action on this album.  The Pixies did it better, but the Pumpkins were totally killing it here as well.  Scroll ahead to about 2:20 in the song: you’ll get a blistering guitar solo that totally dissolves into that candle flickering moment, a breather before you get beaten over the head at 3:40 with the extended outro.

Track 3: “Rhinoceros” – ♥♥♥♥♥

I lied.  I do know some lyrics to this album, but they’re almost all from “Rhinoceros.”  I must have listened to this song easily ten thousand times.  It’s a slow song.  It’s a rocking song.  It’s the best of what the Pumpkins do.  The repeat song option on the Discman never got much action until this song found me.

Track 4: “Bury Me” – ♥♥♥♥♥

Boys let’s get it to it… again with the building the track up from the ground floor. Quite possibly the most rocking song on the album, particularly at the 1:13 mark.  Nothing else needs to be said.

Track 5: “Crush” – ♥♥♥♥♥

Even though the album came out in the summer, this song has a autumn feel to it.  I always picture walking around in a wool pea coat and  scarf, the sunlight filtered through bare tree branches.  I love the sequencing of this track after the long out from “Bury Me” – we’re moving from the rocking first album half, to the more slow-paced burning down.

Track 6: “Suffer” – ♥♥♥♥♥

Another beautiful, slow song which features a woodwind solo.  Again this has an autumn feel to it, except in this case it’s night time and the flute is echoing through the forest.  WTF… why am I picturing this stuff?

Track 7: “Snail” – ♥♥♥♥♥

“Snail” is a great song, but from about three minutes in, until the end it becomes transcendent, with amazingly gentle percussion immediately followed by a punishing drum solo.

Track 8: “Tristessa” – ♥♥♥♥

“Tristessa” is my least favorite song on the album, that said it’s still a solid track, but it’s almost a mash-up of “Bury Me” and “I Am One” both of which are better tracks on their own.

Track 9: “Window Paine” – ♥♥♥♥♥

“Window Paine” is the best song on the disc.  It takes everything that the Pumpkins established on the rest of the album and assembles them into one, almost orchestral piece, made up of specific movements.  There’s the building of song in layers, the loud/quiet/loud dynamic and the amazing drum sound.  To me its closet counterpart is “Three Days” by Jane’s Addiction and for a while I had them back to back on a mix disc I titled “Epix of Rök” (because I was a chucklehead). It’s too heavy to be the last song on the disc, good thing Billy gives us a chance to catch our breath.

Track 10: “Daydream” – ♥♥♥♥♥

There’s not much to “Daydream” – it’s only a couple of verses, but it gives D’arcy a chance to shine, if only for a brief two minutes.  Of course, there’s no way Billy isn’t going to have the last word on the album, so he tacks on a bonus track about fifteen seconds after D’arcy takes her bow.  Is it his commentary on dealing with his bandmates?  Or foreshadowing of things to come?

I’m going crazy
I’m going crazy
I don’t want feelings
Your feelings

I have gone crazy
Motherfuckin’ crazy
I have gone

I don’t know, but it’s definitely a fine end to a great album.  One that’s made me crazy for years.

About Lance

Lance is an online product developer and content producer based in Austin, TX. He enjoys bourbon, tacos, cocktails, tater tots, live music, karaoke and is hoping one day to run into Sasquatch or a UFO. Or a UFO flown by a Sasquatch.

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