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XI: 1991 Smashing Pumpkins - Gish

1991 was the year I seriously got into indie rock. There are at least 65 releases (almost all are albums) of that year in my discotheque. Before starting the poll I was pretty sure to choose My Blood Valentine's noise pop classic Loveless as my fave. On Friday I relistened to it and there were exactly two tracks which stood the test of time: When You Sleep and the closer Soon. The rest was totally forgettable badly aged hoover in reverse gear experimentalism. Groundbreaking in 1991 but sucking big time in retrospect today. The next contender for number one were The Field Mice. I was rather close to go for their version of very personal romantic indie pop with gorgeous melodies and grooves but their album from 1991 Coastal (all songs being on their later sampler Where'd You learn to Kiss That Way which featured in the poll) has some tracks with drum-machine (that's a definite no-no concerning the music I appreciate) in it and is not as consistent as the album I finally chose:

The Smashing Pumpkins (and Butch Vig's as a producer) debut Gish. An album of an almost frightening intensity and coherence which somehow got both overshadowed by Butch Vig's next slicker production, i.e. Nirvana's Nevermind and the subsequent releases of the Pumpkins. Of which only the double album Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness was noteworthy.

Gish is the only heavy metal album which ever did anything for me. If it is a heavy metal album. It is a very eclectic work also integrating psychedelics, goth and some of the most mesmerising drumming I have ever heard. Jimmy Chamberlin, the oldest member of the band (born 1964) who arrived latest and got kicked out later for his heroine addiction came from jazz. Corgan's father was a jazz guitarist. Maybe these jazz roots make the difference. I really don't know. All I know is that this album is extremely varied and timeless.

The coherence is two fold. There is a coherence of the album (an unmatched flow of indispensable songs) and a coherence of the band. The interplay of shaman drums, lead playing bass and distorting guitars is absolutely somnambulistic. Everything is extremely tight and fluid at the same time. Even Corgan's voice which can grate fits in perfectly.

I used to listen to this album on headphones after a night out. Going on a mind trip after the real life trip. Impossible to put into words like most of these kind of trips. Maybe the lyrics of Crush can give an idea of this experience:

you wrap your arms around a feeling that surrounds like liquid peppermint

Refreshing like a hot hyper-sweet peppermint tea served from a Moroccan tin tea kettle in the sahara.

The taster is Rhinoceros (lyrics) which starts slowly but soon turns into a guitar feedback drenched orgy.

Here is the overview of the series 40 years, 40 albums of which part XI was this post.



I'd still stand up for Loveless, and though it has the occasional weak track, I still think most of it is great. Gish, though, not only stands the test of time well, I think it actually improves with age. I'll never forget seeing the Pumpkins in the U. K. (Cambridge) about 11 years ago and when the band did Siva and stopped in the middle, the audience all took up the line: "I just want to get there faster." Funny the things that stay with you.

For the encore, btw, they did a Thin Lizzy tune, and "Paddy" here was the only one who recognised it!

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i am always too hard on things, loveless is an amazing album but i don't enjoy to listen to it from start to finish anymore. my mbv love started to fade when i saw them in brussels in the ancienne belgique in 1992. live they were not as mesmerising as on record. my most intense experience with their music was in the winter of 1992 when i listened to loveless in my car going home to luxembourg after a carnival party in trier. usually that ride took about 45 minutes at the time (the motorway wasn't finished yet i think). it took me more than two hours as the fog slowed me down to 20-30 kilometers per hour. i was really thrown back onto the music as i didn't see a thing. and the music was as nebulous as my view. it was like a kind of negative feedback. i can't say how happy i was when i fell into my bed.

the drums going from the left to the right channel and back on gish on headphones after having smoked. one of those moments when you think you meld with the universe. never saw them live. i envy you for your experience with "i just want to get there faster". that's fabulous.

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Gish vs. Loveless

I gotta disagree about "Loveless" and "Gish"--to me, "Loveless" seems the stronger album--it's probably an unpopular opinion now. "Gish" does boast some great tracks, like "Siva" and "Rhinocerous"...but I dunno--they seemed too careerist--whereas Kevin Shields and Co. just seemed like they were making music to make music--I mean, they spent three years in the studio and nearly bankrupted Creation to make "Loveless"--self-indulgent, sure--but it didn't seem ego-driven, like a lot of Corgan's efforts (especially following "Siamese Dream")

The music of "Loveless" seems completely liquid to me, a meld of psychedelia, noise and straight-up rock--whereas "Gish" seems more of a concious attempt to meld certain styles--it does work, for the most part--but not as much as "Loveless", i.m.h.o. And also--try and tell me "Daydream" (on "Gish") wasn't influenced by "Lose My Breath" (on "Isn't Anything").

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at the time loveless was the more original, the more innovative record, mbv were the more new-sounding band. but today loveless has lost this advantage. the fact that mbv spent much more time and money on their record and that they burned out by making it doesn't mean shit to me. gish wasn't as spectacular in 1991 but for me at least it sounds at least as good now than then. whereas this definitely can't be said about loveless. what bothers me about it is the rich muddy sound, the Wagnerian bombast i hear in it. it's subjective i admit but did you listen to it recently? every time i have put the cd in my player in the last ten years i was disappointed. it is an album which is much better in memory than in today's reality.

your opinion is not unpopulat at all. ilm recently voted loveless best album of the 90's. gish didn't even finish in the top 100. and here is a no consensus thread on the best album of 1991.

lose my breath to me is one of the most loveless like song on isn't anything (together with all i need). the beginning is similar to the beginning of daydream but daydream goes somewhere else. in any case that song is probably my least favourite on gish. it finishes the album but doesn't really fit with the rest. and that's not only because of the girl's vocals. it has a different, less dynamic vibe than the other songs.

... link  


Ha Ha Ha--well, I don't hear any Wagnerian bombast when I listen to "Loveless"...but it does still sound fresh to me when I listen to it--and I still listen to it every so often--the last time was probably a few weeks ago.

I do remember a review of "Loveless" saying (and I'm paraphrasing here) that it "invented a new sonic vocabulary", now that does seem a bit of a dramatic statement to me--but it's not that far off from what I think of it as well.

Shields' length of time and cost could be compared to Brian Wilson's making of "SMiLE" in '67--so maybe there's some Wilsonian bombast on "Loveless" ;-)

...anyway--it's still the better record overall, i.m.h.o.

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... comment

last updated: 12/8/21, 5:41 PM
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