The Smashing Pumpkins "Pisces Iscariot" Reissue Review — 5 out of 5 stars
Tue, 24 Jul 2012 07:29:23
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Pisces Iscariot remains a hidden gem in the canon of '90s alternative rock.
In its own right, the record is a classic on par with the best material from The Smashing Pumpkins. The songs may be as mainman Billy Corgan dubbed them, "Odds and orphans", but there's real magic in there. Make no mistake about it; the record's 2012 reissue begs close and repeated listens. After the first one, you'll be hooked anyway though...
"Soothe" tiptoes gently with finger-plucked acoustic guitar and heavenly vocals from Corgan. He softly pleads, "I don't wish you away", and it's just as heavy as any of the distorted vitriol on Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. The opener stands out as one of the most heartfelt and heartbreaking tunes in the group's storied catalog.
"Frail and Bedazzled" glides on the fuzzed-out bliss that made Siamese Dream a masterpiece, while "Plume" incorporates a hulking groove that's gleefully overpowering. Another acoustic marvel, "Whir", signals a calm before the storm, as "Pissant" roars with raw, real angst. "Hello Kitty" wields another mind-blowing riff, while the psychedelic "Obscured" swirls right into the group's legendary cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide".
The centerpiece of Pisces Iscariot is the eleven minute-plus "Starla". Like some kind of early '90s "Stairway to Heaven" the song builds with spacey bombast and once again illuminates Corgan's technical prowess as a songwriter and musician. "Blue" tows the line between dreamy and heavy, while "Spaced" closes things out in strangely brilliant fashion with warbled spoken word.
Remastered, the songs sound utterly divine, and then there are the bonuses. A second disc encompasses 17 unreleased or alternate versions of songs from that era. It's worth it just for the ominous "Jackie Blue" and the resounding "French Movie Theme". "Purr Snickety" also shines quite beautifully.
Plus, there's a DVD of 24 unreleased live performances from back in the day that really evince Corgan's fortitude on the six-string. He's one of the best guitarists on the planet, and it's clear again after one viewing. The deluxe edition really gives fans another treat with postcards, watercolor illustrations, gorgeous old photos, and a cassette reproduction of the first Pumpkins demo.
While you're enjoying the masterwork that is Oceania, take a look back at Pisces Iscariot. It'll change your world just as every other Pumpkins record did—and those on the horizon will.
What's your favorite song from Pisces Iscariot?
See our review of Oceania here!
See our interview with Billy Corgan here!
See Billy Corgan list some favorite authors here!
See Billy Corgan list some favorite metal records here!
See our retrospective on Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness here!