For any band with an extensive back catalogue, a Greatest Hits is essential. The established fan will already know most of what features, but for those poor, uninitiated souls with no bloody clue where to start a Greatest Hits release offers a lifeline. It silently enters CD retailers through the back door, not making a fuss on its launch but providing a solution to those of us left baffled by choice.
In the case of The Smashing Pumpkins, the solution could have been narrowed down to their first three albums. Rotten Apples both recognises and highlights this. Whoever put this track list together deserves a gold star, because they’ve unapologetically chosen the most accessible Pumpkins songs without compromising diversity, talent and play length. If the band’s music has never been your forte, here’s your chance to rethink.
Running in chronological order, “Siva” and “Rhinocerous” introduce the listener to Chicago’s reaction to Seattle’s grunge scene. Strung out and up high, packed full of blistering guitar fuzz and monged bass, new ears will instantly know Gish is a reliable purchase. Having survived the obvious, older fans are rewarded with “Drown”, a standalone from the soundtrack of Crowe’s Singles. Rotten Apples then blasts into Siamese Dream territory full throttle. “Cherub Rock”, “Today” and “Disarm” do the deed, and though plenty of opportunities to impress are missed, they represent the album’s gravity perfectly. Moving on through “Bullet with Butterfly Wings”, “1979”, “Zero” and of course “Tonight, Tonight”, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness is allowed a substantial portion of time. The length of the 1995 release – clocking in at two discs and 28 tracks – paired with the career peak it represents means it’s well deserved.
After the rather telling dong and wallow of “Tonight, Tonight”, Rotten Apples bows a sad farewell to the Smashing Pumpkins in their prime and introduces the near industrial, terrifying image of Corgan in a leather dress. This by way of “Eye”. Calling Lynch’s Lost Highway soundtrack home, the song is a suitably menacing dedication to the unknown. It’s also fucking superb, almost enough to wipe everything about the following era (bar “Ava Adore”, which comes next) from my mind. Fortunately “Perfect” rocks in with the emotional fervour of Courtney Love posing for daytime appeal and I regain my grip on reality. This and the marginally better five songs that follow document the aspect of the Pumpkins’ career that makes me want to run out into the street and scream “WHHHHHHYYYYY”. The MaDM inspired growl of “The Everlasting Gaze” saves Rotten Apples the embarrassment of fully admitting the truth. Coupled with the fact that the release selects the best of the worst, and mercifully my vocal chords and Gloucester Road are saved the experience of my shriek.
Up until now Compact Discussion has followed The Smashing Pumpkins every step of the way. It's noted a steady shift in sound that at the very core can be considered a decline. The one failing of Rotten Apples is that in so carefully selecting the best, it presents this decline as a very sudden and gut clinching cliff of epic proportions. To someone who doesn’t know any better, it’s forgivable. To someone that has heard Siamese Dream the whole way through, it’s depressing.