39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
As a longtime fan of The Smashing Pumpkins, I was looking forward to this reissue nearly as much as I did the 'Siamese Dream' reissue, as 'Pisces Iscariot' has always held a special place in my heart. While not the flawless masterpiece that 'Siamese Dream' is, it really showcased the band's wide range of styles, much more so than their two studio albums, and with more of a raw, "live" sound overall. It could be argued that these outtakes and B-Sides are better than most of their alt-rock peers' grade-A material. I couldn't wait to hear these songs with cleaned-up sound, not to mention all the bonus material--the outtakes of the outtakes, if you will.
Within seconds of popping in the remastered first disc and playing "Plume," I thought maybe I had grabbed the bonus disc by mistake, as the vocals are entirely different from the original, sung in a lower register by Billy, with slightly different lyrics in spots. Nowhere in the liner notes does it mention the use of a different vocal take, so I'm wondering if this was accidental. Or did Billy not care for the original take, so he swapped it with another? Either way, I think this version should have been saved for the bonus disc, instead of going all George Lucas and altering things that were fine to begin with, but I didn't let this kill my buzz. However, during the next song I listened to, "Frail and Bedazzled," something didn't sound right to me again, but I couldn't quite figure it out, even after listening to the original version to compare. Eventually I decided to play both at the same time on separate players, and within 15 seconds they were out of sync with each other. The new one, while the same as far as the vocal and instrumental tracks, is actually slower, hence lower in pitch. While the original ends at 3:16, the new one ends at 3:21. Not a big deal, and maybe this was intended, but it does give it a "lower" sound.
Then I stopped obsessing over these things and just enjoyed it for what it is, 14 stellar songs by one of my favorite bands during (arguably) their peak years. The sound quality seemed about the same to me at first, though slightly louder, and with less noticable hiss on certain songs. Fortunately there's no clipping, at least on the first disc, an all too common side effect of the current "loudness wars." However, the next day, while listening on headphones, I noticed quite a few instances of digital noise and crackles in various songs, notably the beginning of "Pissant" and the end of "Blue." These glitches are not in the originals. While they aren't jarring, I was expecting better quality, especially considering the great job Corgan and Ludwig did with the 'Gish' and 'Siamese Dream' remasters.
Those issues didn't affect my enjoyment as much as the bonus disc's issues, and there are many. These songs were brickwalled (i.e. made louder, basically) to the point of digital clipping and distortion in many of the songs. At first I thought, "Well, these are outtakes and demos, so I shouldn't be too harsh, since the sound quality probably wasn't great to begin with." But, being a hardcore fan, I already own bootlegs of many of these songs and, while overall the sound quality here is clearer, there's less dynamic range, and there was no clipping in the bootleg versions. A large number of the songs contain digital noise as well, and the transition between "French Movie Theme" and "Purr Snickety" is off. The first few seconds of "Purr Snickety" are at the end of "French Movie Theme," so if you want to hear all of "Purr Snickety' you have to rewind to the end of the previous song. And when I ripped this disc to iTunes, a couple songs were not labeled properly, causing the tracks to be out of order. Again, not a huge deal, but considering the cost of this set, I expected more care to be put into it.
Fortunately the live DVD makes it all worth it in the end, as it's awesome to have these early performances from when SP were more of a Cure-esque goth/new wave band, as opposed to the psychedelic hard rock powerhouse they would become in the next couple years (as evidenced later in the DVD). The sound quality's good for a 1988 public access broadcast, and Jimmy's mullet is rocking the jam session as well, which is always a plus. Unfortunately, I no longer have a cassette player, so I haven't listened to the 1988 demo tape yet, though I do have a bootleg, and it's definitely worth hearing for those of you who haven't. It, along with the DVD, will give you a whole new perspective on the evolution of this great band, showing just how thoroughly they reinvented themselves in a few short years with 'Gish.'
So, despite all the problems, the set is still definitely worth getting for the hardcore fan, but you might want to wait and see if these glitches are fixed, as I've noticed other SP fans online complaining, wanting refunds, etc. Maybe this will cause Billy and co. to reissue the reissue, but I don't see that happening, at least for a while. Hopefully the upcoming 'Mellon Collie' remaster is handled with the same care as 'Gish' and 'Siamese Dream' were, as I have a feeling the complaints will be much louder than they are now if similar defects are noticed in that. Here's hoping...
27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on March 24, 2005
The Smashing Pumpkins' music that made the actual studio albums were, for the most part, nothing short of enigmatic, yet positively beautiful, otherworldly, mood-inducing and cathartic. The songs that didn't make the albums, however, are just as stunning and deserving of the attention from any Pumpkin fan. In fact, some of these songs could surpass some of the ones that actually made the albums; further evidencing the need to own the B-sides.
_Pisces Iscariot_ is a collection of B-sides and outtakes deriving mostly from the _Siamese Dream_ sessions, while a couple derive from the _Gish_ sessions, and one track is taken from the (now) hard-to-find _Lull_ EP.
A reviewer below makes a great observation: _Pisces Iscariot_ doesn't feature the overall grandiose, bombastic consistency of mood found on _Siamese Dream_ and subsequent Pumpkins studio albums. Instead, there's more of an intimate, lo-fi and subtly nostalgic mood that permeates these recordings. But, regardless, the trademark Pumpkins' mix of soft, dreamy ambience, and overdriven sonic extremeties are here aplenty.
Some of my favorites: "Soothe" is a track recorded in Billy Corgan's bedroom. An intimate, low-key acoustic track featuring autumnal chords, which provide as the backdrop for Billy's equally intimate, breathy mannerisms. "Frail and Bedazzled" is a retro-sounding rocker with a tint of psychedelic mannerisms. The swirling guitars, the precise, yet seductively-rhythmic drumming from Jimmy Chamberlain (this guy was mind-blowing on the kit), and D'Arcy's bottom-heavy basslines coalesce to create this indescribably beautiful number.
"Whir" is simply one of the most preciously beautiful things this band ever did, and they have done many, to say the least. The dreamy melody, punctuated by the strumming of the seemingly-unplugged strings, the willowy, subtle line overdubs, and Billy's breathy vocals are some of the few things that help to create this monumental beauty. The minor-key ending was a nice way to round off this one. "Blew Away" is a dreamy number by James Iha. The first part starts off slow, only to end on a heavier note.
The next two songs are the Pumpkins at their explosive best: "Pissant" is almost punk-like in it's rhythm and lyrics, yet you would rarely find overdriven guitars as thick and heavy as this in most punk songs. "Hello Kitty Kat" is almost ambient in it's heaviness; the heaviness and overdriven sonics are so extreme, that it nearly crosses over into house & techno. The wall-of-sound is massive here, and Billy's soft voice is beautifully drowned in the explosive mix. It creates a wonderful effect, and the noise only gets more intense as the song progresses. What's more astounding? The noise is actually melodic and almost trance-inducing.
After those last two sonic powerhouses, we are brought back into the band's softer side. "Obscured" is a beautifully-meandering, mood-inducing number, which actually ends on an eerie, fuzzed-out note. "Landslide" is the Pumpkins' cover of the famous Stevie Nicks/Fleetwood Mac track. Billy and gang actually did a nifty job on this performance. Billy claims that this song is quite an inspiration on him, and that he highly identifies with it. "Starla" is an 11-minute powerhouse. Starts off smoothly and melodically, with a few psychedelic-like backdrops. Then, later, it concludes with a swirling, drawn-out instrumental jam that you could easily lose yourself in.
Not much else needs to be said. If you're a Pumpkins fan, you won't want to be without it. Of course, if you really are a Pumpkins fan, you already do have it. But, by the subtle chance that you fall into the former, you've got my recommendation, to say the least.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on July 30, 2005
Smashing Pumpkins - Pisces Iscariot (1994)
This collection of non-album tracks is quite diverse as it explores both the most quiet and the hardest-rocking extremes this band was capable of. Too bad it skipped some fantastic non-album material like "Glynis," but record companies tend to keep some gems in the "harder-to-find" category so fanatic collectors can feel special (and mastermind/uber-ego Billy Corgan obviously had something to do with it). I'm a fan, but since I don't have any particular inside info about the band to impart (except that I just read today that Billy is trying to get the band together again), I'll just relay my impressions of PISCES ISCARIOT -------->
"Soothe" - a gorgeous performance on vocal and acoustic guitar by head Pumpkin Billy Corgan recorded at home. *****
"Frail and Bedazzled" - supercharged balls-to-the-wall rockin' out. *****
"Plume" -one of my very favorite SP tunes, this one really captures a certain "don't give a f@#%" feeling that I myself am prone to fairly often. Corgan's piercing guitar really soars on this one when he solos and he makes excellent, trippy use of some kind of foot peddle or thingamajig (a tech wizard I am not). *****+
"Whir" - an easy-going tune, nice and melodic, although I'm not crazy about the way it ends (with a rather ineffective guitar riff that sounds a little too melodramatic for my tastes). ***1/2
"Blew Away" - another mellow cut with James Iha on vocals. Apparently Corgan left Iha to his own devices on this one and it turned out really nice. ****
"Pissant" - The thrashiest track on PISCES, and a real shot of adrenaline. Frantic drumming from Jimmy Chamberlin. ****1/2
"Hello Kitty Kat" - steady, super-heavy rocker. Great chord changes at the chorus. *****
"Obscured" - a pretty, meandering little journey via acoustic guitar strum, simple percussion and ringing electric guitar touches. Wondrous vocal from Corgan. But he almost kills the mood with that distracting drone at the end of the song. ****1/2
"Landslide" - Stevie Nicks cover, gorgeous and very effective. Corgan delivers a heart-felt vocal that stands on its own, a worthy interpretation with a different feel from Stevie Nicks (who admittedly has a better voice). Great acoustic guitar, too - love the solo. ****1/2
"Starla" - positively euphoric. A monumental eleven-minute song with tons of guitars - effects-laden, epic and otherworldly. Fantastic live - so I've heard as I haven't seen them, but I've got a great bootleg of this song that segues into a spacey "Never Let Me Down Again" by Depeche Mode. Most likely my fav SP song ever. *****+
"Blue" - a bad-ass bass line kicks off this steady rocker that also features some lovely, plaintive tangents. Dates back to their earliest days. *****
"Girl Named Sandoz" - A cover of an old one by the Animals, this is a cool rocker that's a little campy and slightly cheesy thanks mainly to the lyrics. I'm into it! ****
"La Dolly Vita" - smooth and dreamy rocker - "cool as ice cream" - this one has an almost hypnotic atmosphere, until it peaks with a potent climax. It's my favorite here, after "Starla" and "Plume." *****
"Spaced" - an experimental atmospheric piece with distorted, dub-heavy vocals. Sounds like it's sleepily drifting through the cosmos as Corgan's strange ruminations to his father hover in the background. Unusual and interesting track. ***1/2
Anyone who likes the Smashing Pumpkins will find a lot to like here - it's not just for completist fans by any means. I've listened to it for years since it came out and don't expect to ever stop. Although it understandably doesn't have the coherence of a typical "normal" album release, it's still very listenable. Actually, it's no less coherent than MELON COLLIE AND THE INFINITE SADNESS now that I think about it. I'd say it's my second favorite Pumpkins record, after SIAMESE DREAM.
21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
Most bands with genuine rock creation going on end up with some B-sides, and the Smashing Pumpkins were no exception. While it has no internal cohesion, "Pisces Iscariot" is a solid album in its own right, with the mix of bombastic and balladic that the Pumpkins did so very, very well.
With a few exceptions like Broken Social Scene, B-side albums usually have a few enchanting songs, surrounded by half-formed songs that might be good when they grow up. "Pisces Iscariot".... is not one such album. Virtually all of these songs are worthy of being A-sides.
The Pumpkins were one of those rare bands that did both quiet and loud songs equally well. There are mellower, beautiful songs like "Soothe," the beautiful cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide," or the rather wispy "Whir." On the other hand, there is the rock side: frenetic "Frail and Bedazzled," steady "Plume" and jagged "Pissant." Then there's the center jewel of the album, the steadily built-up "Starla," which starts soft and turns into pure sonic insanity.
The instrumentation has a raw quality -- it doesn't sound unpolished, but it does have a lot of unbridled power and enthusiasm. Billy Corgan was in good form during each recorded track, including the one from his apartment, be it fuzz-rock, distorted jams or his acoustic guitar, with James Iha quietly and exceptionally backing him up. And as the finishing touch, there's outstanding drumming by Jimmy Chamberlin.
Corgan's voice is a bit off in "Landslide," but otherwise his high vocals fit in as well as always. James Iha also gets to shine in "Blew Away." And the songwriting is a bit more simplistic ("You hear a lot of visions/you can't even stop/can't see what you're missing/spinning like a top") than the usual Corgan fare, but still quite pretty to listen to.
"Pisces Iscariot" is a rare beast among B-side albums -- the B-side album that is better than many regular rock releases. And whether you're a Pumpkins fan or a newbie, it's a solid listen.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on September 22, 2005
What surprises me most about Pisces Iscariot is the sheer eclecticism that it represents. These are songs that range from the barely-there acoustic opener Soothe to the all-out amps on 11 grind of Pissant. Corgan forces sounds out of his guitar that don't seem to all be coming from the same place.
The guitar on Plume sounds more like a truck revving its engine than any instrument I can think of, but the sound doesn't overcome the dry sarcasm of the line "Oh yeah, another day. Oh yeah, gotta play." There's a juxtaposition of the empowerment of being a rock star with the self-realization that life is boring.
Pisces Iscariot is a statement of what music the band felt had gone too far to fit on a conventional record; material that's too personal, too indulgent. There's a cover of Landslide on here. There's an epic monster. The booklet itself is made as if just thrown together at the last moment on rice paper.
It's an album of disparate songs, but they somehow fit together. You can hear cars going by in the background. It sounds like Chicago.
Ironically, it's in the b-side collection that I find music that I think best reflects what the pumpkins were about.
And it's totally great.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on August 28, 2000
If you want a classic Pumpkins Album then get this! In my Opinion, it even tops Siamese Dream. Like every Pumpkins Record, this one has a very special feeling to all the songs, even if they are B-Sides and have nothing to do with one another. "Soothe" is one of my favorite Pumpkins Songs ever, it's so simple and perfect at once. Most songs on the Album are extremely mellow, like "Whir", "Obscured" or "La Dolly Vita". You also hear James Iha singing on "Blew Away". It's really hard to name the highlights of this album because every song is an enormous highlight for itself. Not one weak point in 14 songs, most other bands can only dream of this. You won't realize that this is a B-Sides sampler! It would be silly to compare the Pumpkins Albums, but I like this one better than Siamese Dream and Gish. It isn't as monumental as "Mellon Collie" and not as special as "Adore" or as big as "Machina", but I think it's the heart of the band's career. It is an essential piece of any nineties-Rock Collection.
13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
OK, so it's not all a noisy din. For instance, the aptly named first song, "Soothe," features a gentle opening with only Billy Corgan's close voice and a wispy acoustic guitar. Recorded in his apartment at the spur of the moment on some beautiful inspiration, "Soothe" catches the essence and spirit of this great album.
These awesome backburner B-sides probably best the songs heard on Gish, for the most part. "Pisces Iscariot" is the definition of spontaneous musical output, songs truly recorded in the spirit of the moment in the early 1990s. "Plume" features a lazy and rough-grinding riff, accompanied by endearing slacker values: "I don't care to give enough," moans Corgan morosely, as if he has no intention of becoming the hip new voice of his generation. After the breezy tunes "Whir" and "Blew Away," this album really kicks into a higher gear, as the supreme rockers "Pissant" and "Hello Kitty Kat" blow everything over within one hundred feet of their path, like an angry tornado of sound. These two songs are as raw and feisty as this band has ever been, and were recorded in a muffled style at a fast and furious pace. Perhaps it's not ear candy, especially for those expecting tunes like "Today," "Mayonaise" or "Sweet Sweet," but it is some great rock and roll. Between Jimmy Chamerlain's snappy and forceful drums, the all-encompassing bellowing guitars and a huge bass sound, one can't help but be bowled over. "Hello Kitty Kat" is especially a hard-driving tune, easily one of the hardest of this band's storied career. On it, the Pumpkins sound like a bunch of teenagers trying to prove themselves, which may not be too far from the truth.
As a whole, it's the middle of "Pisces Iscariot" that is untouchable. After the hard rockers, "Obscured," a dreamy acoustic tune with a country-tinged slide guitar and laid-back lyrics, slows things down to a mesmerizing degree. One of the Pumpkins' best slow songs ever, "Obscured" is achingly beautiful. And "Starla" (like many of these songs), probably deserved A-side status somewhere in the Pumpkin cannon. It begins slow, psychadelic and seductive, with soft and echoey guitars that build to climactically buzzing electric guitars, which then revert back to quiet, simple, almost humble beginnings. Meanwhile, Corgan repetatively sings basically the same lyrics and refrain, which leads to a dramatic, purposely long, guitar-fueled, bass-heavy grand finale. "Starla" is one of the coolest rock songs ever written.
Arguably, "Pisces Iscariot" may have ended just fine on the energized aura of "Starla." Anything after that song is bound to be a bit of a letdown. However, some of the album's more interesting tunes kick in at the end. "Blue" can also be found on the short EP Lull, and was a nice addition to this album. "Girl Named Sandoz" has a grittier, almost blues/rock feel, quite different from most of Corgan's work to that point. The following "La Dolly Vita" has a certain swaying groove, and probably ranks as the album's most polished effort. Corgan branches out yet again on "Spaced, the closing tune, indeed a relaxing and spacey piece of work, full of echoes and a whining slide guitar. The last three songs stick out like a sore thumb amid the early-'90s vibe of the proceeding songs, yet they show Corgan further spreading his sonic wings and branching out his style. It's easy to see why so many thought this band had great potential at such a young age. Full of fire, spirit and talent, fed from a charismatic and ambitious lead singer, the Smashing Pumpkins owned the world with these remarkable songs.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on September 19, 1999
This album benefits from not having been concieved as a whole. Every song seems to exist in its' own little world, and the result is one of the most moving collections of songs I've heard. There is not a clunker in the bunch. 'Plume', 'La Dolly Vita', 'Obscured', Corgan's cover of 'Landslide' deserve distinguished mentions, but the albums centerpiece is the magnum opus 'Starla' and it is quite simply my favorite Pumpkins song and one of my favorite rock songs ever. 'Starla' trumps its' obvious inspiration ( Clapton's 'Layla' ) and achieves true heartbreak in its' raging-against-the-void guitar outre. It has a similar affect on me as Wagner's 'Liebestod'.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on July 29, 2003
The Smashing Pumpkins have outdone most any band from the 90s that made their mark on the alternative rock scene. Why? If you listen to the fuzzy crunch of siamese dream, and the beautiful mellow rock of Mellon Collie, and of course, this album...an album that would stand the test of time for a B-Sides collection, Pisces Iscariot, you would see why.
This is no ordinary B-Sides compilation that was thrown together from old discarded songs and demos that were plain jane material. All of the Pumpkins' material, and I mean ALL of it...everything from album cuts, to radio hits, to B-Sides, to stuff that never surfaced until the band broke up was worthy of an open ear and a good listen. I'll review each song as I see it.
Soothe - 4/5. A Very mellow, sad acoustic ballad about loneliness and being hungry. One of Billy's old acoustic demos from the siamese era. It was recorded in his apartment bedroom, and you can hear rainy traffic.
Frail and Bedazzled - 4/5. A nice, short, mellow rocker with some real 'tude to it. Corgan's solo is pretty fun to hear in this one.
Plume - 4/5. Taken from the I Am One single, this fuzzed-out Slow Rocker is a nice little song that takes the album into a different side of the pumpkins.
Whir - 4/5. Possibly the mellowest song on the album, this song is respected by many, hated by few. It seems to have a bit of a country twist to it.
Blew Away - 3/5. From the James Iha collection. This song never really struck me, but it seems like a nice little song that your girlfriend would like.
Pissant - 4/5. A nice two minute rocker with some super fast powerchords and some attitude. Got me a raygun, got me an attitude...
Hello Kitty Kat - 4/5. A Slow Rocker that flanges in and out of your speakers on high octane fuzz.
Obscured - 5/5. This song is a very nice song that seems to go nowhere but inspires you and captures you nonetheless. Taken from the Today single.
Landslide - 3/5. Not the best job of singing by Corgan, and it's not the best cover they've ever done. In my opinion, Dancing In The Moonlight would have better fit in Landslide's Place.
Starla - 5/5. Nothing is perfect, but this song gets a five from me, because this is pure Pumpkins. Take it, put it in a jar, add water, shake it up, which ever way you want. This song is raw Pumpkin power. It starts off with a slow rhythm, leaves out with an Asus2 chord...then kick on the dirtbox and VROOM!! This thing takes off. The 6 minute jam session after the actual song is finished is amazing. Don't skip over this one.
Blue - 4/5. A nice little rocker that will make you want to get up and dance. This song takes several twists and turns. As soon as it's done rocking, then it slows to a mellow pace, then starts rocking again. Great song!
Girl Named Sandoz - 3/5. An Animals' Cover, not the best, but it's a good song to get up and dance to.
La Dolly Vita - 5/5. Taken from the Tristessa vinyl. I understand why it was a B-Side. It would have never fit with the distorted fury of Gish. Sort of reminiscent of Crush, this is one of my favorite songs from the Pumpkins. Absolutely beautiful.
Spaced - 3/5. Sounds like something I would do myself. Expiramental sounds and passing voices in and out. Not really a song, but a good closure for this collection.
Smashing Pumpkins were a great band, and this album proves it. This is no ordinary B-Sides album, this is solid material. I don't even understand why some bands release B-Side albums, because most of the B-Sides really really don't go anywhere. The Pumpkins however break through those barriers and provide us with some very listenable stuff.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 25, 2003
Billy Corgan...was there a more prolific songwriter of the 90's? For a guy that wrote 300+ songs in a decade (yeah, it's true) it's hard to say no. Back early in the game with only two albums to their name the Pumpkins put out this excellent collection of B-sides in 1994 (and it wasn't even close to a complete collection, where's Purr Snickety or Glynis or ....?). And the scary thing? There really isn't much pure filler here. A lot of these could have been A-Sides. Hell, a lot of them SHOULD have been A-Sides. With B-side collections you usually get an album with two or three good songs and then about 10 half-baked ideas. That's not the case here. This album runs the course from moments of beauty (the opener 'Soothe', the cover of 'Landslide') to furious rockers (the excellent one-two punch of 'Pissant' and 'Hello Kitty Kat'). With this release you can tell that the band (young at that point in time) was really having fun in the studio (something they lacked on later releases). Tracks such as 'Frail and Bedazzled' seethe with youthful exhuburance and the attitude is contagious. Sure, there are some tunes that don't altogether work; their take on'Girl Named Sandoz' exchanges manic soloing for an actual tune while 'Whir' floats gently down the stream without ever really catching hold, but contained on the album are many excellent tracks as well as two absolute astonishing numbers. The first of these two is 'Obscured', a dream-like song that hovers around your ears without ever quite falling in. It's one of those wonderful 'shoulda made the album' type of songs that you'll want to put on repeat. The second of the two is 'Starla', an epic 10+ minute song that begins softly before building into a sonic freakout. The band rocks out here like they're fighting for something they believe in. Back in '94 they were a band with something to prove and with this song, they did.