Sound — 9
Much has been written about Nirvana's classic "Nevermind" and how it changed the musical landscape, not just at the time, but forever. Most of it is true, but what a lot of people fail to recognize is that Nirvana were just one of many bands at the time, part of a movement. One of the groups that wouldn't really acheive true success until later, The Smashing Pumpkins, were also breaking new ground, and despite being located in Chicago, they definitely fit in among the Seattle scene while still bringing their own style to the table. On their debut album, "Gish," Smashing Pumpkins are presented at their rawest, most rocking, thanks in part to legendary producer Butch Vig (who also did "Nevermind") and to Smashing Pumpkins mastermind, Billy Corgan, who as the group's career would progress, would prove to be a true visionary, ahead of the times. Even if you couldn't get past his nasal whine.
Lyrics — 9
No doubt, "Gish" is the only Smashing Pumpkins album (out of 5) that you can truly classify as grunge. However, what set Smashing Pumpkins apart (at least at this point in time) was Corgan's unique, and somewhat vague songwriting, coupled with excellent musicianship that often gave way to some rather creative jams. This ten song album is split into it's soft sides, and it's rough sides. The grungy, riffy "I am One," "Tristessa" and "Siva," which are '90s essentials in themselves, are backed up by some truly memorable, lighter fare, such as "Bury Me," "Crush" and the epic "Rhinoceros." Despite being easily their most streamlined and direct affair, there were still signs of what was to come on future albums, as noted by "Snail" and the mellow closing number, "Daydream," which features bassist D'Arcy on vocals.
Overall Impression — 9
Despite being just a mere ten tracks wide, "Gish" is still a very substantial, versatile listen. It definitely smells of the '90s, and as a sign of the times, Corgan had long, flowing hair. When you consider the now iconic image of Billy's pasty, bald, white visage, the picture of Corgan included in the liner notes really gives you an idea of where the band were at the beginning of their career. As time went on, and as they reached even bigger success, they evolved, and they ended up very far from where they started. But one thing you can never accuse the Pumpkins of is being boring, and never doing the same thing twice. And "Gish" is a testament to that. A brief glimpse at the group as just a straight-forward rock band, and definitely the best in their league.