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TITORO review
by Mark Andrew Hamilton
When songs undergo the conversion into acoustic performance form, one of two things can happen. The songs will either hold up based on a strong songwriting foundation, or they will wither on the vine without the support of studio production flourishes. The Pumpkins have performed numerous acoustic renderings of a large number of tunes throughout their career, and have uniformly managed to secure a strong placing in the first category.

'Tune In, Turn On, Rawk Out', presents the infamous Triple J Intimate Lounge show from March 13, 1996, featuring 8 'Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness' tunes performed unplugged. The changes in performance are fascinating, with the individual tracks adopting a folk dirge feel.

The performance provides a series of memorable images, and lead to a new appreciation of the songs we've all heard a countless number of times: 'Tonight, Tonight' would fit in as perfect background music to a starlit night on the bayou; '1979' loses it's studio sheen, yet not the power to make you just want to roller-skate dance your cares away; 'Cupid De Locke', never a particular stand-out on the album, is given an added dose of quiet charm when stripped down; 'Thirty-Three' gives the feeling of a warm winter's night in bed, crawling into the fuzzy cave of hefty blankets.

Greatest of all, are the transformations of 'Take Me Down' and 'Bullet With Butterfly Wings', the first into a page straight out of 1970s AM radio, and the latter into a molasses-slow dirge, providing the unshakable image of slavery rebellion -- from the first listen, I was struck with the images of night-lit railway tracks and shanty town housing, begs for freedom emerging from within. This retelling of 'Bullet', creates a conversion from modern angst-anthem to a nearly traditional feel, as if the song's true copyright was in fact 1895 instead of a century later. Whenever the song begins to feel tired, it only takes one spin of this performance to add new depth and renewed interest.

The opening sequence of performances from early 'MCIS' promo television and radio appearances give an interesting look at the earliest live attempts at this material. 'Bullet With Butterfly Wings' and 'Zero' from 'Saturday Night Live' show the Pumpkins stumbling ever so slightly, not entirely back into the swing of playing live after months in the studio -- re-watching the actual program on video shows a rather nervous Billy attempting to judge the audience's reaction, and making a few slight mistakes. Or maybe it was just due to November 11, 1995 being the first time his new haircut was on national television. The additional jabs at 'Bullet With Butterfly Wings' from Canal+ and 'The White Room' are a little more relaxed, and show the band fully kicking back into gear. '1979' from the 'American Music Awards' is spot-on to the recorded version, with vocals unfortunately ragged. Yet the 'KROQ Breakfast Radioshow' performance is pure honey -- Billy Corgan solo, accompanied only by acoustic guitar and singing in a calm reflective tone of voice.

Overall, 'Tune In, Turn On, Rawk Out' is a fantastic addition to any collection, with only a few minor quibbles popping up between the cracks. The quality of the KROQ track could be somewhat better, yet the rest of the disc is uniformly fantastic. Collectors should also be fore-warned of 'Landslide's inclusion as part of the Triple J performance -- it is not performed live, but simply 30 seconds from the record with Billy's comments ("I don't like any of them. Well. No wait. We do like that one") over top. After the 11 minute interview which is at times hilarious (such as the performance of 'Bullet With Butterfly Wings' by a fan over the telephone with touch-tones as instrumentation) and other times maddening (specifically the individual who asks if Billy's been undergoing chemotherapy -- to which he receives the response, "H'mm. Are you familiar with the word 'fuckoff'?") comes a hidden treat in the form of the 1989 telephone answering machine message from 'The Absolute Middle Of Nowhere' compilation, left for his unsuspecting roommate, Bob English: "I am one, pick up the motherfuckin' phone! C'mon loser. I know you're layin' there watchin' cable. Hello? Well, maybe you're not home. Maybe you're out looking for a job. Not."

As always, Moonraker's artwork is top of the line, and includes the infamous individual band member bios from one of the earliest official fanclub letters, with D'arcy listing "People I hate" as her 'Biggest Influence On Career', and Billy's inclusion of Salvador Dali and Walt Disney as 'Musical Influences'. The cover itself is a curio worth a second look -- Billy and James posing in drag.

The disc itself is marked "Part 1", and based on this volume, a second would certainly warrant close inspection.

Overall Rating: 9
Sound Quality: 8
Performance: 10
Artwork: 8
 
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