Among prominent bands of the 90’s, Billy Corgan, Jimmy Chamberlain, D’Arcy Wretzky and James Iha stand up as one of the better and more groundbreaking ones. As the Smashing Pumpkins they had a mix of angst, polish, and on point instrumentation that make them stand out among their contemporaries. Seeing them live was vastly disappointing the times I witnessed it, but they easily make up one of the best on-album bands I’ve ever heard. Today we talk about their top ten best songs. Hope you enjoy!
10. Frail and Bedazzled, Pisces Iscariot
So after the massive success of “Siamese Dream,” “Pisces Iscariot,” a B-Sides record not as good or in depth as the previous album was released. It actually did better initially than SD, but that’s neither here nor there. This song in particular though, showcases them much in the same way sonically that they appear in the groundbreaking former effort. It has all the technical aspects in terms of playing that you’d come to expect from the extremely proficient Corgan and Chamberlain, and because of that, it begins our countdown of the Smashing Pumpkins Top 10.
9. Geek U.S.A., Siamese Dream
This record, for the record, is easily the best work the band ever did, in my opinion. The whole album has this slick yet abrasive polish over it, and much like the rest of the tracks, “Geek U.S.A.” roars to life with a great drum opening right before the guitar comes screeching in and amps it up to a raucous level. The song speaks highly to my need to head bang when I was the appropriate age, but all these years later the song still really rocks. It’s placement near the end of the record also helps to keep up the momentum while still adding in gorgeously layered textures after all of the chaos has ignited our fire.
8. the Everlasting Gaze, MACHINA/ The Machine of God
Following the epic nature of “Mellon Collie,” the band began what I like to refer to as their Corgan-centric experimental phase. This song, while at first glance is typical Pumpkins, really pushes the limits of what the world had known of the band before it. The crunchy guitar part, and the slight synthy vibe permeating through the track show yet again that they were more than content with exploring new chasms in their sound. The chorus also is one of the better ones in their catalog, and the backing tracks and ominous keyboards all add to the jumble in a really cold, mechanical way.
7. Siva, Gish
“Gish” in my opinion is an rarely mentioned album that made possible the success of “Siamese Dream.” With each album they grew and grew, but without this initial step I doubt they would’ve come as far as they did. Finding us at number seven on the Top Ten Smashing Pumpkins tracks, “Siva” explores depths that most up and coming bands don’t really get to navigate. That’s just how good this band was in the early stages. Even snippets of the track showcase how well the can juxtapose soft ethereal backgrounds with in your face guitar focused rock. For me this song really helped prove to the band that they could mix those two elements, which ultimately helped to create “Soma” and “Porcelina of the Vast Oceans,” which we’ll get to shortly.
6. Disarm, Siamese Dream
Even if you’re a casual SP fan more than likely you’ve heard this hauntingly tumultuous song. I mean it's only been playing on modern rock radio stations for the last two decades or more. For me though I always remember hearing this in the car with my mom and being instantly drawn to the message of melancholy in the song. The song, meant as a message to Corgan's parents for the way he was treated, resonates with a multitude of people in similar situations, and that’s what draws me to the song, even today. Corgan pours his emotions out in “Disarm” more than in any other song I’ve heard from the band, and the echoing line of “Killer in me is the killer in you” serves as a cold sobering reminder of how much the anger our parents have is transmitted internally to us and how we have to fight to vanquish it.
5. Bodies, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness
This probably isn't the most obvious choice, but infact this song kicks more ass than most of the songs on this magnum opus of a record. The heaviness is palpable throughout, and Corgan's howls perfectly fuse the instrumentation together and make the song an instant headbanger with much power and stamina behind it. Showing up very early on the records second disc, “Bodies” marries some of the more intense music the band ever created with a very eerie background that ultimately brings us back into the doom and gloom that make the song a killer intense song. For years it’s been one of my favorite “MC&TIS” tracks, and today it lands at the halfway mark of the Smashing Pumpkins Top Ten songs.
4. Cherub Rock, Siamese Dream
Everything from the opening drum beat to the flawlessly executed guitar opens makes the song what it is, which is a powerhouse force that brilliantly opens up what I think is their best, most well rounded album. It’s lo-fi in a somewhat abstract way, but overall the sound coming from the speakers speaks volumes on where the band was during this area. Billy’s vocals are crisp as well as murky, but it’s this back and forth that helps make the track so intriguing to me. Few bands could accomplish this back in the day, but it seemed as though the Pumpkins did it with ease. I mean, you have to be doing something right when you’re the headlining band of Lollapalooza over the Beastie Boys right?
3. Porcelina of the Vast Oceans, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness
I think this song is only possible because with “Soma,” off of “Siamese Dream” the band figured out they could make long songs that weren’t difficult to get through. The Pumpkins have a few lengthy songs, but this is my favorite, without a doubt. The lush backgrounds of the music give way over time to a bombastic signature sound only they could achieve. And I mean all four of them, not just Corgan. It’s nearly three minutes before vocals come in, and while they’re great, the real story here is the perfection in terms of mixing. Corgan’s vocals are done in such a way that they just peek out during the verses, but come full force during the epic choruses. Jimmy Chamberlain meanwhile, is able to navigate the drums like a sail covering the black waters of the night. Among the amazing songs found on “Mellon Collie,” “Porcelina of the Vast Oceans” is among the most remarkable and triumphant.
2. Soma, Siamese Dream
And finally as we approach the number one spot, we’re treated to a wonderful monument of a song. “Soma,” number seven on “SD” but number two on this countdown, is one of the more mythological sounding songs I’ve ever heard from the band, I say mythological not in the Hercules way, but more in the way of being surrounded and living a beautiful, hazy life in a wonderfully plentiful garden that shines brilliantly in the starry night. The opening movements are splendid, and when the guitar exposes itself to the world, the song is truly part of the atmosphere. What they do here is incredible to say the least, and it’s because of its epic nature that it lands at number two on the Top Ten Smashing Pumpkins songs.
1. Today, Siamese Dream
They may have started to wane as the 90’s drew to a close, but there was once a time when the original Pumpkins were simply incredible. Especially on “Siamese Dream.” Even more especially on this track, “Today.” From the very first time I heard the opening guitar notes, and the overall nostalgic lyrics, it was like I was transported to a different world. It was easily my favorite song period for years and years, and even if I hear it today, I still take the time to enjoy. All of the band really delivers a potent, classic alternative track. Corgan, Chamberlin, Iha, and Wretzky all bring something simple and pure to the song, and in the end, that’s why maybe the band worked so well, until Corgan officially took over and axed everyone. Having said that though, Today isn’t simply a great song by a great band, but it serves as one of the happiest musical memories i have from my teenager years, and it will likely always hold a special place for me. Thanks for reading!
Landon Murray is a published writer and an avid lover of music, books and films. He's also a lover of the New Orleans Saints. He was born in 1982 and has a chainsaw tattoo on his arm.
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