PRIMER: Abe Vigoda Breaks Down Smashing Pumpkins’ Back Catalog

[Photo by Dan Monick]

In an interview with Paper Thin Walls way back when, Abe Vigoda guitarist/vocalist Juan Velazquez seemingly lost a few of the band’s Smell-related cool points by saying, “I don’t know if we sound anything like them but we’re all definitely Smashing Pumpkins geeks. Like I’m definitely psyched that ‘Cherub Rock’ is on Guitar Hero 3.”

While we could care less about Guitar Hero (self-titled towers lacks a Playstation), there’s a special place in our collective heart for Billy Corgan’s back catalog. That’s why we asked Velazquez to split the Pumpkins’ dense catalog into a MUST HAVE ALBUM, an INTERMEDIATE RECORD, and an ADVANCED LISTEN.

Get schooled after the jump …

MUST HAVE ALBUM: Siamese Dream (Virgin, 1993)

This is one of my favorite albums of all time! The first time that I heard it i was in fifth grade and my friend in class showed me this record and mellon collie. This was the year that they won the MTV music video award for “Tonight Tonight”. I remember listening to it on my Discman every day and trying to figure out what Billy Corgan was saying. I had a later issue of the record that didnt come with the lyric sheet. Other than the nostalgia I have for the record, its actually totally stood the test of time for me, the way that other of their records haven’t. The guitar sound on every song is so insanely dense. The first track “Cherub Rock” is definitely one of the best on the record, and it starts out really quiet and clean and the out of nowhere comes in super full and rich and full of big muff distortion. If you listen closely you can hear so many guitar tracks on this song alone. Billy’s vocals are so great on the whole record, they are really layered with like one vocal track being really pretty and whispery and the other either being screamy or lower in pitch. Aside from all the dorky music tech type things about the record that are so good the songs are super catchy and dreamy!!! The track “Rocket” which was a lesser known single off the record is really exemplary of this, its slightly psychadelic and there is a beautiful steady guitar note and really great fills that weave in and out of the song. All in all this album is super cohesive and shows lots of sides of the band… and the music videos for the singles of this record are so great!!!!!!


START HERE: “Cherub Rock”

JUAN SAYS: Although it is the first track and a single off the record, it’s so GREAT–pop hooks drenched in distortion!!!!

INTERMEDIATE RECORD: Pisces Escariot (Virgin, 1994)

This is not an official record; it’s more of a b-sides compilation for Siamese Dream singles. It totally flows like a record, though, with the songs being similar to the Siamese Dream ones, only slightly more experimental and weird. The songs are just as heavy recording-wise but you get to hear a different side of the Pumpkins. For instance, there is a Stevie Nicks cover (“Landslide”) that’s actually great despite it being an acoustic track … which sometimes isn’t too forgiving on Billy’s “unique” voice. The other acoustic track on this is “Soothe,” which actually opens the compilation up. It sounds sappy and really embarrassing but when your in Junior High feeling all crazy and awkward, songs like this are a totally amazing and perfect accompaniment to your “pre-teen gloom.”

What’s really awesome about this record is the James Iha track, “Blew Away,” a really pretty–and in a way, cheesy–sort of soft glam-rock tune. There are some guitar effects on top of an acoustic, a mid-tempo beat, and Iha’s angelic voice. The longest track in the collection is a song called “Starla,” which is one of the best psych songs the Pumpkins have. It has a backwards guitar intro and whispered vocals and it ends in a incredibly long ending with lots of guitar effects and solos and white noise on top of this steady hard rock type beat and bassline … it’s AMAZING!!!!! Another cool thing is if you take the inside tray of the cd out there is a rad picture of the band in their “garage” days and James Iha is holding the coolest blue guitar!



JUAN SAYS: Really great guitar tone–really thick and super angsty–and doomy lyrics!

ADVANCED LISTEN: Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (Virgin, 1995)

This might come as a surprise to Smashing Pumpkins fans, their best known album is also one of the most taxing to listen to. For starters, it’s a double record with over 24 songs. Lots of people I know think that this record could be shrunk down to one disc, which I can understand but don’t really agree with. There are lots of really amazing songs on this, from the hits to lots of really strange songs only a real fan would be really into. One song in particular, “We Only Come Out At Night,” seems to have some sort of old timey piano and a lyre of some sort. It’s totally pretty but offputting when people are expecting a ROCK ALBUM. There are lots of songs like this, including “Farewell and Goodnight,” the closing track that is really dreamy and has all the members singing at the end. It seems like many songs that would be considered B-sides made it onto the record, which turns lots of people off. This is not to say it’s not a great record though! Some of their best songs are on this album, such as “Bodies,” a song we have thought of covering many times. It’s so heavy and doomy but somehow at the same time has a hopeful element to it towards the end of the track which is completely amazing.


START HERE: “Bodies”

JUAN SAYS: Awesome intro! It sounds like your stereo falling apart. Great song despite the ending lyrics … “love is suicide.” Hahaha.