Blast from the Past
The Smashing Pumpkins embark on a wave of nostalgia with the release of remastered versions of Gish and Siamese Dream, the band’s first two albums recorded in 1991 and 1993, respectively. Gish, an unexpected hit, was responsible for bringing the Pumpkins to Virgin Records, who released Siamese Dream to great acclaim two years later, achieving an impressive sales record of 6 million copies internationally. The Pumpkins’ dramatic history—full of breakups, lineup reconfigurations, drug overdoses, and tense recording sessions—gives the albums a sensational aura. The ’90s may be just a decade or so in the past, but the Pumpkins are well on the way to becoming some of its musical icons, after their grungier counterparts Nirvana.
So, 20 years later, these albums are getting some well-deserved touch-ups, remixed by sound engineer Bob Ludwig. The remastered Siamese Dream retains all the dynamic fluidity of the original (mixed by Alan Moulder) and its melding of mellow dream-pop and heavier shoegaze sounds. Songs like “Hummer,” “Today,” and “Disarm” resonate with Billy Corgan’s distinctive vocals, drenched in layer upon layer of guitar tracks. The raw prog-rock power of “Geek USA” punches with just as much force as it did back in 1993, but with improved sound. Corgan’s legendary obsession with perfection remains apparent on the remixed tracks—densely layered guitars create an almost tangible texture. Both Siamese Dream and Gish were recorded with this kind of lush production style, meticulously crafted with complex instrumentation that shines through on the remastered tracks.
This release marks the second time Gish has been remixed—after the Pumpkins signed to Virgin and left Caroline Records, the label re-released the album with remixing done by Howie Weinberg. In addition to remastered versions of Gish‘s original tracks, the 2011 set contains several demos, live recordings, and songs that didn’t make the final cut back in 1991 like “Honeyspider,” which shows off the band’s shoegaze/prog-rock side, built around repeating riffs from a fuzzy, psychedelic guitar. The live performance of “Snail” captures Corgan’s cathartic vocals and the band’s characteristically dense sound in action, flowing smoothly between contemplative, mellow interludes and a rocking chorus. The acoustic numbers “Jesus is the Sun,” “Smiley,” and “Seam” provide a glimpse into the Pumpkins’ softer side.
While remasters are sometimes superfluous, those of Siamese Dream and Gish are welcome additions to the Pumpkins’ repertoire. They showcase an era in the band’s history that is too often eclipsed by the soap opera that followed.