The Smashing Pumpkins had made a name for themselves in both the grunge circles and alternative music in general, particularly due to Billy Corgan’s distinct nasally voice and the band’s knack for integrating a wide variety of styles in their sound. This machine of a band pumped out numerous genre-spanning singles, most of which came off the double disc opus Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness
, and this one, the heralded Siamese Dream
. It is extremely easy to see why this album is so highly regarded; most of the songs are very well-written, memorable, and even beautiful. There’s quite a bit to like here, from the dirty grunge-driven songs to the soaring ballads to the semi-dreamy, surreal alt rock numbers. However, many of the slower songs are lumped too close together for the album to avoid getting boring, and it makes the overall experience a varied one.
One of the immediately noticeable features of Siamese Dream
is its muddy production that was popular of grunge at the time; the disc just sounds muffled and quiet. I’m sure it purposely sounds like this, perhaps to give a certain feel and atmosphere. It really isn’t a huge deal because it isn’t all that noticeable once you get a few songs in, not to mention that this kind of production is probably preferred by the majority of those who regularly listen to grunge. Any dissatisfaction with this muddy sound will likely get replaced with sheer awe as soon as opener “Cherub Rock” gets going; it has an immediately likable riff played on top of some snare driven drumming, and this eventually morphs into the song’s main riff. Corgan’s voice will make or break it for you, because it stays so far on the nasally side at all times. If you like his voice, everything in the opening track comes together to make for a perfect song; the vocal melodies are memorable, the instrumentation is diverse and unique, and this can be applied to a portion of the album because “Cherub Rock” is only one of several absolutely amazing songs.
“Hummer” is another standout track. From the stretched out distorted notes being plucked over a bubbling bass line to its subdued and pretty verses, it is an example of their mixture of alt rock and grunge (among other things) executed perfectly. The next excellent song comes in the form of “Disarm”, one of the band’s most famous songs. It is a very emotional acoustic and strings-led ballad, and is probably one of the most memorable songs you will ever hear. The band just implement the right things at the right time in this song, from the addition of bells in the instrumentation to the vocal melodies in the chorus. “Geek USA” and “Mayonaise” are also instances of the band working on all cylinders, being energetic and catchy, or being simultaneously sorrowful and beautiful, these moods belonging to the respective songs. Unfortunately, the rest of the songs don’t really have these factors or anything else that bring them above average.
The Smashing Pumpkins have a very tedious side to them. They can try to do too many things at once, and it often results in cluttered songs that don’t go anywhere. There is not a better example on this album than “Silverfuc
k” – there’s nothing wrong with the first four minutes, but it goes on for another four and a half and does next to nothing new for the song. Unfortunately this is a double-sided mistake, because in addition to being too tedious and drawn out for its own good, it’s boring as well. The other slower songs like “Soma” are placed either next to or near each other, and since they are average tracks, the album as a whole suffers from periodic stretches of boring music that seems all the more sub-par when compared with the great songs. Siamese Dream
plays out like a sporadic and lopsided mountain range; when there are peaks of memorable passages or intelligent songwriting, they are extremely high and prominent, but they are spaced in between valleys of boring material and average songwriting.
The fact that mediocre songs like “Spaceboy” and “Luna” are on the same album as simply astonishing and powerful songs like “Mayonaise” and “Disarm” is a little surprising, but perhaps only to the people that aren’t in love with the band; for dedicated fans that have the patience to wade through the boring moments, the fact that most of the slower songs are placed near each other and at the end of the album can be easily overlooked. This is besides the undeniable factor that Siamese Dream
has at least five amazing songs filled with memorable moments. This is a very diverse album as well, with the band exploring grunge, electronica, hard rock, and even psychedelic, all mixed in such a way to give the signature Pumpkins alt rock sound. It is because of this that the album has incredible replay value, if for the standout tracks alone if nothing else. Unfortunately, about half of the album hangs out at the average and/or good level due to stale songwriting and boring, drawn out passages. The best thing about Siamese Dream
is that in addition to having some outstanding songs, it doesn’t have any that are just downright bad. If the best songs here were made into an EP, it would be one of the best collections of music I’ve ever heard, but I can only dream.