With screaming guitars cutting through the famously propulsive Pumpkins chug, “I am One” and “Siva” start the album off with the band at their most hard edged, “Gish” presented a readymade and highly original hard rock force. However, “Rhinoceros” presents a softer side to the Pumpkins that is also apparent on most of the other songs here, most of which inevitably erupt as well.
As for the rest of the songs, “Bury Me” brings the rock big time, again with screaming guitars aplenty, the lush “Crush” is a beautifully low-key ballad, the trippily atmospheric, Eastern-tinged “Suffer” would later be brilliantly sampled by Tricky, the soaring “Snail” is the album’s most impressively epic arena rocker (along with “Rhinoceros”), “Tristessa” is stylistically similar to “Bury Me” but isn’t as good, “Window Paine” has its ups and downs but its ups are genuinely exciting, and the charming finale “Daydream” is a lightly dreamy change of pace sung girlishly by bassist D’Arcy in her only lead vocal with the band. In retrospect, Gish was the blueprint for even better things to come, but the album should still thrill the majority of the band’s legions of followers. Led by Billy Corgan, this was a band born for big things that knew exactly what they wanted right from the start (according to Corgan, he wanted to “combine the atmosphere of goth-rock with heavy metal”), aspiring towards everything that all of their indie “peers” despised by refusing to check either ego or ambition at the door.
Granted, Corgan’s geeky, grating vocal whine takes some getting used to, but producer Butch Vig manages to smooth over its rough edges just enough, and his voice certainly is uniquely his own. Though it pales in comparison to its subsequent big brothers, on which Corgan’s songwriting would grow by leaps and bounds, Gish was the necessary first step that made those brilliant albums possible, and it remains an exciting and estimable first effort in its own right.