Album Review: Smashing Pumpkins – “Pisces Iscariot”

Smashing Pumpkins’ Pisces Iscariot album is a compilation of B-sides and outtakes that was released on October 4, 1994. The album peaked at number four on the Billboard 200 album chart, and has gone on to be certified platinum by the RIAA. The liner notes include notes from Billy Corgan regarding each song included on this disc. However, the biggest downside of the liner notes is the thin and flimsy paper that was used for the inside. I always feel like I have to be careful when looking through the liner notes, fearing that I might accidentally rip the pages because of how thin they are.


Pisces Iscariot opens with “Soothe,” which was a B-side for the “Disarm” single. This is a slower acoustic track, and it’s not the type of song you would have expected to open an album by Smashing Pumpkins; however, this song does work as an album opener. This is followed by “Frail and Bedazzled,” which was an outtake from the Siamese Dream sessions. Unlike the previous song, “Frail and Bedazzled” is much more uptempo; it also would have fit right in on the Siamese Dream album if it had been included. Personally, “Frail and Bedazzled” is one of my favorite songs from Pisces Iscariot.

“Plume” was the B-side for the 1992 release of the “I Am One” single. This song has a much heavier bassline than is normally expected from a Smashing Pumpkins song. It’s also a more midtempo-sounding song than the previous two pieces on the compilation. Next is “Whir,” which was another Siamese Dream outtake. This song almost has a country feel to it, and it feels inspired by the soft rock music of the 1970s. Hearing this, I can see how it wasn’t included on Siamese Dream. I think it’s a great song, but it would have sounded so out of place on the album.

“Blew Away” was a B-side for the “Disarm” single. It’s a slow song that features James Iha on lead vocals. Like “Whir,” it also has that laid-back sound from the 1970s. This is followed by “Pissant,” which was a B-side for the “Cherub Rock” single. This song really picks the pack of the album back up, and it’s also one of the hardest songs that I’d heard by Smashing Pumpkins at that time.

Next is “Hello Kitty Kat,” which was B-side of the “Today” single. It’s another upbeat rocker, and it’s also another one of the songs that I really like on the Pisces Iscariot album. “Obscured” is an outtake from the Gish session that was released as a B-side of the “Today” single. It’s a slower song that slows the album down dramatically. “Obscured” is also a more acoustic sounding song.

“Landslide,” a cover of the Fleetwood Mac song, was a B-side of the “Disarm” single. “Landslide” was also released as a single to promote Pisces Iscariot, and it peaked at number three on Billboard’s Modern Rock Tracks. This is a very faithful cover to the original song, and it’s another song that I really enjoy from Pisces Iscariot. This is followed by “Starla,” which was a B-side of the 1992 release of the “I Am One” single. “Starla” is also the longest song on Pisces Iscariot, clocking in at eleven minutes and one second. Personally, this is a song I don’t listen to very much on this album.

Next is “Blue,” which was originally released on the Lull EP. The song starts out kind of slow, but it quickly builds in intensity and sounds a lot like a song one would have expected from Smashing Pumpkins at that time. “Girl Named Sandoz” is a cover of a song by The Animals, and it was originally released on the Peel Sessions EP. It’s another upbeat song, and it’s another one of my favorites from Pisces Iscariot.

“La Dolly Vita” was a B-side for the “Tristessa” single; this is a slower song with a heavier bassline. Pisces Iscariot closes with “Spaced,” which is an outtake from the Siamese Dream sessions, and it’s also the shortest song on the album. It’s a slower piece featuring distorted speaking; it definitely sounds more like an experimental piece, and I can hear why this didn’t make it onto the Siamese Dream album. Putting this at the end of the album was probably the smartest choice, since it’s so different from everything else.

Pisces Iscariot isn’t a bad album for being a compilation of B-sides and outtakes. However, since these songs weren’t originally recorded with the intent of being on the same album together, it does create an awkward flow for the album at spots. This is definitely an album for the Smashing Pumpkins fans who want to own the B-sides from this era without having to chase down as many of the earlier singles to have the songs. However, Pisces Iscariot may not hold as much interest for more casual fans of Smashing Pumpkins’ music, unless they would like the opportunity to be exposed to more than just the singles and tracks from the regular albums.

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