Three Up/Three Down is a catalog-oriented feature that seeks to highlight a given artist’s best three albums and worst three albums.
Incredible as it may seem, Smashing Pumpkins has been been kicking around in one form or another for 30 years at this point. Roughly a decade of that time, the period between 1988 and 1999, encompassed the group’s “classic lineup” era, featuring Billy Corgan on guitar and lead vocals, D’Arcy Wretzky on bass, Jimmy Chamberlain on drums and James Iha on guitar. It was during this period when they released some of their most beloved, genre-defining albums like the concise, hard-nosed debut Gish, or the titanic, two-hour long Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness. The other two decades, the Post-Zwan period if you will, saw Corgan taking over and releasing a number of spottier albums with a revolving group of different musicians around him.
With ten full-length albums, a whole bevy of EPs, and one multi-platinum certified B-sides collection that might as well be canon — 1994’s Pisces Iscariot — to their name, there’s quite a lot of material for casual Pumpkins fans and new arrivals to try and dig through. To help alleviate some of that burden for the curious, here below are the three albums you definitely should check out, and three more that you should avoid at all costs. I didn’t include the whole Teargarden By Kaleidyscope project on this list, because, well, for one, it’s not really an album per se, and two, it’s way too complicated to pick apart. You can probably skip that one, for what it’s worth.