Album Review: Smashing Pumpkins – “Gish”

Gish is the debut album from Smashing Pumpkins, and it was released by Caroline Records on May 28, 1991. The album only ever managed to peak at number 195 on the Billboard 200, but it has gone on to be certified platinum by the RIAA.

The album opens with “I Am One,” which was also the debut single for Smashing Pumpkins; it ended up being re-recorded for Gish. Musically, this song features a doubled guitar solo. It’s a very upbeat song, and works perfectly as an opening song for an album. It’s also one of the songs that I enjoy from Gish. This is followed by “Siva,” which was officially the lead single for Gish. It’s been said that the original title of the song was “Shiva,” and referenced the Tantric concepts of opposing feminine and masculine forces; however, the title would later have the “h” removed from it. Musically, the song uses what is referred to as a “Hendrix chord,” due to its use in “Purple Haze” by The Jimi Hendrix Experience. “Siva” is another song I like from Gish.

Next is “Rhinoceros,” which features the loud/soft dynamic that the band would later become associated with. Supposedly, the recording of the song features seventeen tracks of feedback. This is also a song from Gish that I personally enjoy. “Bury Me” picks the pace of the album back up, and it sounds a lot like the music that would have been associated with the “grunge scene” of the time. While I enjoy this song, there’s not much to make it stand out from other alternative songs coming out at that time.

Next on Gish is “Crush,” which is another slower song on the album. However, unlike “Rhinoceros,” there isn’t as much here musically to make it sound interesting and stand out from other alternative songs being released at the time. “Suffer” is another slower song; while it’s not a bad song, it ends up bogging the album down being right on the heels of “Crush.”

This is followed by “Snail.” The song starts out slow, but picks up in intensity as it goes along; it ends up becoming a more midtempo song. As this song goes along, it starts to lift the album out from the “bogged down” feeling it had with the previous two songs. Next on the album is “Tristessa,” which was the second single ever released by Smashing Pumpkins; it ended up being re-recorded for Gish. “Tristessa” picks the tempo of the album back up again, and it’s another song that I enjoy from the album.

“Window Paine” slows the pace of the album back down again, and it also features rather minimal instrumentation. As the song progresses, the tempo stays the same, but the instrumentation becomes fuller; Billy Corgan’s vocals also pick up in intensity as it goes. Gish closes with “Daydream,” a ballad featuring lead vocals by D’Arcy Wretzky. While it’s a departure from the rest of the album, it’s a refreshing change. “Daydream” is the perfect song to close an album with, and it’s also another song on Gish that I enjoy.

While Gish isn’t a bad album, it’s not one of the band’s strongest releases, either. It’s not bad for a starting point, and as you listen to the album, you can hear that the band has potential. That potential ended up becoming realized on such future releases as Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.


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