Quick now- think of 1993's best album. If you didn't think of Siamese Dream
, that's okay, I'll forgive you this time. If you thought of Radiohead's Pablo Honey
... well I don't know what kind of freak you are. This sophomore album was the breakthrough for Smashing Pumpkins, though it was uncertain whether they'd be able to continue. Billy Corgan was set full on Control Freak Mode as recently broken up guitarist James Iha and bassist D'Arcy Wretzky were pushed aside, Billy shared one goal with producer Bitch Vig: perfection. And though Billy later admitted he was unhappy with how Siamese Dream had turned out, he came pretty close. Like the Cure's Pornography
, Siamese Dream
proved that the best music can still be made while going insane. And so, through various tensions, contemplations of suicide, and alcoholism, Smashing Pumpkins proved to be the little band that could. Well, for one more album at least.
An album notorious for at least 27 tracks of guitar per song, Siamese Dream
begins as a relentless onslaught of supersonic Queen
-sized guitars sailing through fuzzy seas with Cherub Rock
. Though the sea seems to make restless waves of noise, the song sails smoothly as Billy Corgan sings with his nasal and snarling voice half-optimistic half-cynical responses to the hipster Indie kids who thought Corgan was too pretentious. They need to grow a pair. The waves only get even more fidgety as the S.S. Siamese Dream voyages into the second track Quiet
, a caustic song introduced by muddled guitar slides resembling mundane dragsters racing, probably driven by Billy Corgan's angst. All this grunginess in the first two tracks may throw one off, but there's oh so much more. This was in fact quite anti-grunge. Billy Corgan basically hated Nirvana
, the band's apparel of choice was paisley shirts instead of flannel found in the dumpster, and most importantly (the others weren't even important) Billy wasn't afraid to solo his a
ss off and dismiss typical song structures.
is like Billy Corgan's diary of all his relationships in the past two years. And it's not your usual diary where a casual entry would be: Dear Diary, the people at school are meanies and I hate them. The chicken was good.
Corgan's poetic and enigmatic lyrics throw one off at first, but the emotions are bare and universal. The epically bittersweet Soma
is about Billy's girlfriend leaving him, the bitter and not sweet at all Disarm
is an open message to all about his [deprived] childhood and how he grew up to become an as
shole. The darkest one of all may just be the brightest song on the album, Today
was written by an overweight and tired Billy Corgan deciding whether to commit suicide or not. Despite it being a life or death matter, Corgan cheekily decides that today is the greatest day of his life because there's no way things could get worse. Well you could catch a cold or stub your toe, don't be so sure Mr. Corgan.
With the help of perfectionist producer Butch Vig, the swirls of vintage and outdated fuzz sound polished with a My Bloody Valentine
esque feel. The sprawling border-edge progressive rock Hummer
is strung together by stylized dissonance before going into an ambient outro lead by quiet, clean guitars. The other noticeable epic is Silverf
, a schizophrenic soliloquy who's hard hitting riffs and angst is vaporized into a quiet maddening interlude. Despite its uniqueness, it damages Siamese Dream
's consistency, probably the only song that tires quickly. To balance out the 8 minute madness of Silverfu
ck, Siamese Dream
ends with the surprisingly sugary and short Sweet Sweet
and the dreamy ballad Luna
. For both the fuzz is done away with for lighter and warmer guitars for a minimally symphonic ending.
seems to follow some sort of mood trip; it begins sarcastic, dark and angst-ridden, it flows into remorseful and depressing, then into surreal and poetic with no real theme, and ends on a wistful and romantic tone. The zenith of the depressiveness peaks at the acoustic, cello driven, theatrical Disarm
, drummer Jimmy Chamberlain's jazz-infused drumming is dismissed for dramatic bell chimes. Siamese Dream
is a collage of moods and feelings as well as music, one moment lashing out at someone in fuzz-ridden rage, the other embracing that same person romantically in dreamy atmospheres. From the head banging and complex Geek U.S.A.
to the simple and contemplative Mellotron driven Spaceboy
, the album varies a lot, but doesn't go totally out of whack in variety like Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness
. Smashing Pumpkins, like Sonic Youth
and My Bloody Valentine
created waves of lush guitar sounds to craft a symphonic album, even in the simpler songs like Today
. Where's your da
mn Pablo Honey now?