Review Summary: Still the unbelievably crazed and addicting record it always was, with some added nostalgia for your listening pleasure.
When Billy Corgan’s pet project Smashing Pumpkins formed up back in the late 80s and recorded a multitude of demos, EPs, and a particularly amazing college-rock album (Gish), they could not possibly imagine the heights this band would reach in their career. Siamese Dream, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. Which one is better? The answer is unclear. Why did Corgan stop making the music that would keep his band popular? No one knows. Why did James Iha dress in, well, a dress for the Today video? The answer is still a mystery. But what is known about this quirky four-piece band is that they have the ability to rock and experiment at the same time. With all the obsessive Nirvana and Pearl Jam-hype of the early 1990s, the Pumpkins dared to be different. They dared to be the most flat-out, balls-out hard rocking band out there, complete with up to 50-something layered guitar tracks on one song. They dared to upstage the grunge anthem, Smells Like Teen Spirit
, with a hit as sporadic yet uplifting as any track ever produced, in Today. This is what made Smashing Pumpkins so special.
But, time takes a toll on people, as well as music. Looking back at Siamese Dream, fifteen years ago released, the album seems to still be the defining record of the era (Maybe behind Nevermind
). The ridiculously layered guitar tracks, Billy Corgan’s up and down nasal-or-high pitched scream, the infamous guitar tone, or Chamberlin’s revolutionary drumming could all be reasons behind Siamese Dream’s massive success. But it’s not. The album’s ability to capture the essence of the time made it the album it was. Fuse Nirvana, Green Day, and My Bloody Valentine into one ass-kicking album filled with a masterpiece of sonic trickery, anthems to sing-along to, and a collection of epic songs. That’s the real formula behind Siamese Dream.
Yes, the ‘Dream sounds dated. Very
dated. The songs seem out of place in today’s high sonic levels, tight guitar tracks and aggressive vocals. But, things like the layered guitar tracks reek of My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless
, offering up a heavy dose of nostalgia. Corgan’s small dose of lulling vocals totally screams 90s alt-rock. But somehow, I like it. It gives it a heavy dose of the ‘good ol’ days’ of Bill Clinton, and an era where you could listen to the radio without suffering from the mediocrity of Fall Out Boy or My Chemical Romance. So, yes Siamese Dream hasn’t stood the test of time as well as Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, but it’s a trip down nostalgia road, filled with aggressive bumps in the road, and dynamic masterpieces.
From the hard-rock staple of the 90s Cherub Rock
to the atmospheric, dulled lullaby Luna
, it manages to be an album of miscellaneous songs, all held together by Corgan’s raspy vocals and the theme ‘live for today’. It’s not a dark, depressing album, either. Corgan wails “Today is the greatest!” above guitar tracks that relax you to sleep, creating the perfect atmosphere in your head. The stand-out on the album, Hummer, is one perfect song. That’s right, impeccable. Beginning with some lo-fi guitar tracking, fused by some loud and aggressive riffs, the song quickly transforms into a low key atmospheric track with verses to kill all songs. It’s amazingly random, yet seemingly structured all in the same way. But once you think you’ve figured out Corgan’s gameplan for Siamese Dream, he throws a bit of acoustic melody at you in the smash-hit single Disarm
or the cult-classic Spaceboy
Remind you, Siamese Dream is definitely a HARD ROCK album. This is pure heavy alternative rock. Billy Corgan screams “QUIET!” above some of the most ferociously distorted guitar tracks ever recorded, or somehow makes a song titled Geek USA a filthy riff-fest. This isn’t some hard-to-digest release like Radiohead’s Kid A
or Nine Inch Nails’ The Fragile
. One listen, it fits altogether and kicks ass. No filler, just straight-out tracks, each giving you plenty of rock for your tastes.
Nostalgia is a wonderful thing. It’s probably my favorite thing to think about when I’m complaining about today’s world. Things seem so quaint and perfect back then, no War in Iraq and no Soulja Boy. Just good old fashioned Alternative Rock. Not only is Siamese Dream an attack on your memories, it’s an aggressive yet subdued work of art that has everything a rock fan could want-and more. So, basically what I’m saying is that if you don’t own Siamese Dream, buy it. Look past the criticism of Corgan’s voice. Just listen, and prepare for one of the most amazing trips of your life.