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Rotten Apples: Sweet to the Core

Smashing Pumpkins - {Rotten Apples}
The Smashing Pumpkins Greatest Hits
(Virgin Records)
4 1/2 Stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: December 1, 2001

Smashing Pumpkins

By Tony Bonyata

Just in time for the holiday gift giving tradition comes a new double-CD greatest hits collection from one of the most important rock acts of the last decade - the now disbanded Smashing Pumpkins.
While the first disc of {Rotten Apples} The Smashing Pumpkins Greatest Hits would seem to follow the standard format of this type of cash-in packaging - squeeze in all the well known hits and throw in an unreleased bonus track to peel fifteen bucks from the already converted, it actually offers up much more to the casual listener.
All of the big ones are present here, such as the early psychedelic crunch of "Siva," from their 1990 debut Gish, the blistering rock sonics of "Cherub Rock," "Zero," "Bullet With Butterfly Wings" and "The Everlasting Gaze," along with the happily naive tracks "Today" and "Perfect," the coming of age number "1979," and the emotive, passionate numbers "Disarm" and "Tonight, Tonight." But stepping slightly off these well worn tracks, guitarist and vocalist Billy Corgan, guitarist James Iha, bassist D'Arcy Wretsky and drummer Jimmy Chamberlin take us down not-so-familiar paths with "Drown," previously only released on the "Singles" soundtrack, a fragile acoustic take on Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide," as well as the previously unreleased "Real Love," from Machina II, as well a new untitled track which ironically shows the band brimming with new promise.
While the first disc in the collection holds up quite well on it's own, it's the second bonus disc, entitled Judas O, that makes this collection such a treat. The Pumpkins have always been prolific at churning out material - in the form of studio releases, soundtracks, e.p.s and b-sides, but unlike most other artists who save their lesser material for their b-sides, The Pumpkins outtakes are often every bit as strong as their showcased album material. Judas O is filled with many of these intriguing outtakes (many previously released on their lavishly boxed set The Aeroplane Flies High and their internet release Machina II / the friends and enemies of modern music.) Songs such as the "Aeroplane Flies High," with it's Black Sabbath like slabs of guitars, "Marquis in Spades," and a wonderfully heavy take on David Essex' '70s chestnut "Rock On," prove that this band could rock as hard as any headbanging metal act this side of OzzFest, only with more intelligence, emotion and passion. But unlike the majority of metal acts, Corgan and company could also deliver some of the most frail, lilting numbers penned by a rock artist. Some of these gems are apparent on the previously unreleased outtakes "My Mistake," "Sparrow" and "Soot and Stars."
The only sense of rotten apples that the Smashing Pumpkins leave you with after listening to this diverse and engaging collection is that they're not around to create more challenging music like it.

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