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.
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