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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
The Smashing Pumpkins
Greatest Hits/Judas O
Virgin Records

Rating: NR/10 ?

February 18, 2000
note: This review is written by a very devoted Smashing Pumpkins fan (who even sort of liked Machina) of eight years. If you didn't like the Smashing Pumpkins before, nothing on Rotten Apples (Greatest Hits) or Judas O (b-sides and rarities) is going to change that. If you're the average Smashing Pumpkins fan who was into everything through Mellon Collie, gave Adore a shot, didn't like it, and then disregarded everything after that, chances are the b-sides disc won't appeal to you either.

The first disc is standard "greatest hits" fare, with most of the band's singles of their twelve year career in chronological order. Some of the selections are questionable, like "Eye" and "Landslide" being chosen with "I Am One," "Rocket," and "Thirty-Three" nowhere to be found. Songs with extended outros, such as " Rhinocerous" and "Drown", are also mysteriously cut. The disc clocks in at just over 74 minutes, so why not put on the extra minute or so to get the full effect? The final two tracks are a curious addition to a disc supposedly consisting of greatest hits. The first, "Real Love," was one of the better tracks off the internet-only Machina II, but it seems no effort was made to improve the already circulated vinyl to Wav to MP3 sound quality. The last track, "Untitled," was recorded in November of 2000, just before the band's farewell hometown shows, and released only to radio the week of those final shows. Touted as a return to Siamese Dream-era power and bombast, the track continues the trends of shoddy song structure and questionable lyrical content that littered the last couple albums, and it bears more than a passing resemblance to The Who's "Join Together," which the band covered regularly during their 2000 tour.

The second disc, Judas O, is the real reason to pick up this collection, culling b-sides and unreleased materials from Mellon Collie on. Any big Pumpkins fan knows there's an insane amount of material that has never seen the light of day and probably never will, so seeing a number of songs which have been released more than once on this collection is a little perplexing. In all, only four of the sixteen tracks are totally unheard to serious Pumpkins fans.

Most Pumpkins songs can be clumped in any number of very general categories: "Because You Are" sits near the bottom of the 'dirge-y, sneery, angry minor key rockers' category, while "Sparrow" is equally unmemorable in the 'plaintive acoustic ballad' category. The second pair of unreleased songs are exponentially better, with "Winterlong" doing the 'plaintive acoustic ballad' thing correctly, and "Soot and Stars," featuring only a heavily effected piano, reminiscent of Adore's "Blank Page." But, like most everything else released by the band in the past couple years, the shortcoming is the lyrical content, which concentrates mostly on the perils of being a rock star in the spotlight. Bleh.

There are also songs included which are studio versions of previously live-only tracks, and vastly different arrangements of already released songs. "Here's To the Atom Bomb" was a glitchy 1979ish album closer on Machina II, but the version presented on Judas O was originally recorded for Adore, and is simple yet effective straight up guitar rock. On the flip side, Machina II's "Saturnine" is reworked as an embarrassingly cheesy nod to mainstream electronica. Seeming like it was constructed on Rebirth or Fruity Loops, the song already sounds dated. Then there's the David Essex cover "Rock On," which was a live staple throughout the 2000 tours. As well as it worked live, the studio version ends up sounding preachy and tacky. The rest of the disc is made up of stuff that's already been released in one form or another. If you don't own any singles, check out "Set the Ray to Jerry," taken from the "1979" single, and "Blissed and Gone," previously released on the Still Becoming Apart promo EP. These are two of the best Smashing Pumpkins songs of any era, and make this album worth it by themselves.

The tone of this review is a bit negative, which I didn't mean it to be. In my opinion, this is still the greatest band ever, but the flaws of the latter stages of their career are exposed. It's sad because it's like watching a sinking ship, watching Billy Corgan get a little more insanely self-aware about all the wrong things. Tonight I will head to Indianapolis to see his new project, Zwan, for the first time. With a lineup consisting of Jimmy Chamberlain, Matt Sweeney (of Chavez), and Dave Pajo (of Slint, Papa M and Tortoise), my hopes are high for some fresh, forward thinking material, but deep down I know it'll be much more of same fodder found on Judas O.

Reviewed by Jeremy Keller
A staff writer for LAS, Jeremy Keller uses his uncanny ability to intellectualize sports for the greater good of mankind.

See other reviews by Jeremy Keller



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