Smashing Pumpkins – Gish
Nineties alternative rock heroes the Smashing Pumpkins have long been a dictatorship run by guitarist,
lead singer and songwriter Billy Corgan, but there was a brief period when the quartet actually
functioned as a band.
The Chicago band’s 1991 debut album, Gish, finds the quartet almost working as an ensemble of equals.
Jimmy Chamberlain’s jazz-influenced drumming makes every track swing, even while rocking out. D’arcy
Wretzky’s strong, fluid basslines anchor the songs beneath Corgan and James Iha’s layers and layers of
The band that later delivered hits “Cherub Rock,” “Tonight, Tonight” and “The Everlasting Gaze” is
mostly present on Gish. Opening cut “I Am One” is built around Chamberlain’s swinging drum part and
Corgan and Iha’s muscular guitars. The Pumpkins prove they can do quiet material just as well as the
noisy stuff on the slow-burning “Rhinoceros.”
Later, “Window Paine” is a psychedelic dream, a form the band wouldn’t really touch on again. The
biggest surprise arrives on “Daydream,” the final track. Here, Wretzky takes lead vocals for the only time
on a Pumpkins album, giving the track a bit of a Kim Gordon vibe.
While Gish has many strong tracks – including fan-favorite “Siva” – there aren’t any obvious big singles.
In a way, this makes the album stronger, because it forces all the songs to work together as a whole. It
also kind of seems like a dry run for the Pumpkins’ second album, 1993’s smash Siamese Dream. By
then, Corgan had taken over, meticulously recording all the instruments himself, except for
Chamberlain’s drums. -Joel Francis