Record companies have been going to ever more cynical lengths to squeeze as much product as they can out of their successful acts. From pointless MTV Unplugged sets (like Arrested Development’s low-voltage remake of their first album) to box sets for acts whose greatest hits could fit on a 45 (was anyone really waiting for the Split Enz box?), it’s enough to make you wonder if anyone has heard the word overexposure.
So you couldn’t be blamed if you thought that an album of Smashing Pumpkins “rarities” and B sides was just a rip-off. But Pisces Iscariot doesn’t really sound like the compilation of rejects it actually is. In fact, it’s better than a lot of albums that bands labored hard to put together.
Although definitely not the Pumpkins’ best album, it’s more varied, if less cohesive, than Gish or Siamese Dream. “Blue,” “Hello Kitty Kat” and “Plume” (with some of Billy Corgan’s best slacker-ennui lyrics) feature the Pumpkins’ trademark bombastic fuzz barrage and wouldn’t sound out of place on either of those albums. An 11-minute Day-Glo epic (“Starla”) and “Girl Named Sandoz” (an Animals cover) mine their psychedelic roots.
But the truly interesting cuts are the mostly acoustic ballads that show a different side of Corgan. At the risk of giving the band Unplugged ideas, it must be said that ballads like “Soothe,” “Blew Away” and “La Dolly Vita” amply show off Corgan’s songwriting talents. And “Landslide,” a cover of the Fleetwood Mac song, sounds so faithful to the original, you can almost see Corgan spinning around, wearing a great big shawl as he sings. Still, if it isn’t too much trouble, it would be nice if the band eventually went into the studio and recorded a real album.