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Drown review
by Hai Tran
Billy Corgan doesn't subscribe to the conventional politic of playing acoustic. Yes folks, acoustic performances have become somewhat of a cliche. Not in the sense that the idea of performing songs unplugged is tired and overdone -- but rather the common misconception acoustic guitars, drum brushes, and a cello instantly create melodrama. Example. Pearl Jam Unplugged. Not that I am singling out Pearl Jam for any specific reason, as I've naught a bad word to say about Pearl Jam -- but when I see singer Eddier Vedder standing on a bar stool swinging a microphone stand around and bassist Jeff Ament smashing the head of his bass guitar into a drumset -- something is wrong.

Not that you can't smash your instruments while playing an accoustic set, mind you -- smash all you want. But playing acoustic has merely become a choice of instrumentation. They play the same chords they played when electric. The drummer keeps the same tempo. They rip through the same breakneck 290 bpm guitar solo -- only on acoustic. Only without the energy you'd need from an electric performance to make the song actually work.

Bah. 'Bullshit.' says Billy Corgan. Playing acoustic isn't a choice of instrumentation for Billy Corgan -- it's merely a method. The means to creating the image he wants to create. To paint the picture he wants to paint.

So fine, let's play acoustic, but why not have an electronic bass? Why not harmonicas? Why not the sound of paper being shredded?

And so here we have the Smashing Pumpkins. Cramming two acoustic guitars, one electric bass, a mid size drumkit and what sounds to be 50 people all crammed into a tiny Tower Records.

First we have Rocket. A rather odd listen at first as it doesn't instantly strike you as being... well, Rocket. A start-stop Neil Young acoustic feel with a zest of country twang. An interesting listen, but not groundbreaking or spectacular enough to really leave an impression other than "hhmm."

Cherub Rock has always been a different story. Always one of my favorite acoustic. The chartered wall of sound fuzz guitar has been replaced with mid tempo raking and acoustic percussion. Very tight, very compact -- intimate and urgent.

The acoustic rendition of Today is ghostly sparse and thin. The verses consist of just Billy Corgan and tight 4/4 drum measure. The bass drops, the guitars drop and it is just Billy. This concert was held shortly after the release of Siamese Dream [before the dissolution of the song and fan saturation] but unfortunately, this rendition sounds more like a dilluted album version to merit any real gravity.

Mayonaise is oddly nonchalant and playful. Not to my liking for the most part, but the song has it's playful charm.

Hummer I feel, is the song that makes the disc. The first time on the album where I begin to feel the Smashing Pumpkins escape the limits of their instrumentation. Especially when you hear Billy Corgan softy mouth the word "faith" and you come to the an absolutely startling realisation that you are hearing nothing more than Billy Corgan, an acoustic guitar and a drumset. It could have been a full concerto orchestra and you wouldn't have noticed the different. Hummer is a song with no limitations. The gorgeously resplendent 2 minute outro doesn't hurt either though.

And now we're in the Netherlands.

Siva slowly fades in. Too bad we only get to hear 45 seconds of it. What a gyp.

Drown features one of my favorite renditions of Disarm. An almost exact juxtaposition of the infamous rock version and the acoustic version. Split down the middle. This rendition is a bit
 
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