The Smashing Pumpkins - Rotten Apples/Judas 0 (Virgin)
If one band ever deserved a greatest hits collection, then Chicago's Smashing Pumpkins was that band. Having survived the death of grunge and the alternative slump, they constantly pushed the extremes sonically and developed and grown, influencing an entire generation of bands and musicians that followed in their wake.
Hampered by troubles since about 1995/96, with the death of their touring keyboardist and the sacking of Jimmy Chamberlin (drums) due to drug addiction, the Pumpkins have never had an easy ride. "Adore" was recorded after the death of Billy Corgan's mother. With Billy being the band's leader and principle songwriter, his emotional state of mind was reflected on the album which pushed the bands sound in a direction that many fans were unhappy with. D'Arcy Wretzky (bass) left soon after Jimmy was reinstated and was replaced by Melissia Auf Der Maur, formerly of Hole, who played on their last album, 'Machina/the machines of god'.
Gathered we have the definitive Pumpkins collection. 'Siva' still stands out as a superb track with its multi-layered guitar parts and shows where the band was coming from in the early nineties. 'Cherub rock' is a beautifully crafted slab of alternative rock with a monster chorus. 'Today' brings back memories of summer days and early teenage years. I'm sure I'm not the only person who can say that these are the songs that got them through their teens.
'Ava Adore' is a dark beast capturing the Pumpkins in their Gothic phase with its industrial drum beat and pounding bass line. Dark it may be, but Billy sure knew how to write a great chorus and change the mood of song, even if the lyrics remain twisted.
Anyone who has heard the previous collection of Pumpkins b-sides, 'Pisces Iscariot', will know that the songs most often not put on the albums give the greatest insight into this band. "Judas 0", the second disc here, follows in the same vein as 'Pisces' did, with ten of its sixteen tracks having never been released before, the other six appeared on various singles released after "Siamese Dream".
Powerful rock, whether it is through the use of loud guitars or just loud emotions, has always been a focal part of the pumpkins song-writing and none of these songs lack that vital component. 'My mistake' is a lament full of emotion and bare piano, while 'Here's to the atom bomb' is built over a recurring riff and features Corgan's trademark sneer along with a screaming solo. The electronica rock style makes an appearance on both 'Waiting' and 'Saturnine' and it's probably a safe bet to say these were recorded while Jimmy was out of the band.
The highlights from 'Judas 0' have to be 'Aeroplane flies high (turns left, looks right)' and 'Believe'. 'Aeroplane?' is typically straightforward distorted guitar rock done in the way only the Pumpkins can. 'Believe' is the total opposite. It was written by James Iha and is a simple acoustic guitar track. Opening with arpeggios on the guitar and backed by pizzicato strings it is a perfect love song, just like 'Take me down' from 'Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness'. Beautiful.
The Smashing Pumpkins are one of the most dearly departed bands of our times and this is the perfect collection, gathering all of their stand out moments, and there are more than a few, on one disc for us bereaved and nostalgic. They will be missed even more now that we know what we are missing out on.