1991 was a big year for rock music. There were albums, three in particular, that defined modern rock as we know it. These albums, forming the genesis of a new era, were: Nirvana’s Nevermind; Pearl Jam’s Ten; and The Smashing Pumpkins’ Gish. A lot has changed in twenty years: Kurt Cobain’s long gone; The Smashing Pumpkins’ original line-up has ceased to exist; and all those angst-ridden teens are now parents to their own angst-ridden teens. One thing that’s remained constant is the quality and relativity of those three albums. Thanks to the glorious wonders of technology, they are now available to us in the best audio quality to date.
After one listen of The Pumpkins’ debut record, Gish, one thing is glaringly obvious. This album is as good today as it was twenty years ago. Dare we say even better? Just like their contemporaries, The Pumpkins’ music was ahead of its time and with over 30 million albums sold to date, The Smashing Pumpkins have etched themselves into the canon of popular music forever.
Jimmy Chamberlin starts the proceedings with his thunderous pounding of the skins. The quality of this recording is so pristine, however, that if you close your eyes, you may actually believe that the former Pumpkins drummer is actually sitting in close proximity playing drums live. It’s no surprise, then, to discover that Bob Ludwig, arguably the leading mastering engineer in the world, was responsible for remastering this album. The first three songs, I Am One, Siva and Rhinoceros, were also the first three singles to be released from the album. Other highlights on the record include Crush, Snail and Tristessa.
The real winner with this reissue, though, is disc 2 – a bonus disc full of rare and previously unreleased material. The majority of the songs are demos, including Jesus Is The Sun and Seam, both of which were recorded in an apartment. Two tracks which are guaranteed to make the fanboys salivate rabidly are the original Sub Pop singles Tristessa and La Dolly Vita which have been remixed by Butch Vig, the original producer of Gish (as well as Nevermind and The Foo Fighters’ most recent release, Wasting Light). Closing the album is an alternate version of Drown, the song featured in the movie singles. Although, the only real difference is the guitar solo. In all honesty, this bonus disc is almost good enough to function as a stand-alone album.
Some may argue that the “re-issue” is a cash-in – a tool used by artists to generate income from old material. Maybe, but this re-issue is worth it, especially for the die-hard fan and the audiophile. In fact, every fan of modern music should own this record, and more specifically, the remastered version. This music deserves to be heard through the ears of Bob Ludwig.