The Smashing Pumpkins
Siamese Dream


5.0
classic

Review

by Brendan Schroer USER (115 Reviews)
June 25th, 2015 | 45 replies


Release Date: 1993 | Tracklist


"Adventurous." What is your definition of that word when it comes to music" Many people will tell you that the word defines an act that breaks boundaries, one that bends genres in unusual ways, one that uses different techniques from who's perceived as average. But I'd like to note that there's another way the word can be described, which is in a more literal sense. "Adventurous," to me, means that you're literally going on an adventure, a musical trip of sorts. Whether they be realistic or surrealistic, albums that feel more like journeys or complete experiences than just a collection of tracks often end up being some of the most rewarding records. Every track flows well into the next, everything is strung together nicely, and atmosphere often takes increased precedence. And let's be real here: early 90s alternative rock produced many great artists, but often relied less on elaborate or ornate musical techniques or sounds because of how it commonly preferred a more simplistic approach. What I'm getting at is that we needed a band like The Smashing Pumpkins to get big when they did.

Fresh off the surprise success of their debut Gish, The Smashing Pumpkins were facing a crushing amount of pressure from the press, already being labeled as the next big thing to happen to alternative rock. This only added to the multitude of internal tensions the entire group were already facing, including frontman Billy Corgan's weight gain and writer's block, the breakup of bassist D'arcy Wretzky and guitarist James Iha, and drummer Jimmy Chamberlain's drug problems. Everything was crashing down during the band's most important recording session, in a situation almost akin to Fleetwood Mac's Rumours, but luckily, Billy Corgan did the exact same thing the members of that group dealt with the problems: looking inward. He suffered a nervous breakdown and even planned to kill himself during the time of recording Siamese Dream, and this led to many more lyrical and musical themes regarding insecurities and personal issues he dealt with, both in his childhood and in the present day. What it led to was one of the most breathtaking albums of all time, not just in alternative rock music but any kind of music.

Regarding what I said earlier about certain adventurous albums being akin to literal musical adventures, Siamese Dream is an absolutely prime example of this. It's very much a journey through Billy Corgan's personal life, and his songwriting is always sure to reflect this fact beautifully. What we've got here is a mish-mash of alternative rock, progressive rock, grunge, dream pop, and heavy metal sounds coming together cohesively with a few common atmospheres prevalent throughout the entire record. The best word I can use to describe the vibe as a whole is "warm"; this is an experience that's loaded with feelings of summer nostalgia because of its layered and fuzzy guitar sounds and Billy Corgan's sentimental vocals. Certainly, during songs like "Cherub Rock," "Geek U.S.A." and the ironically titled "Quiet," there's plenty of heavy aggression to be had here as well; however, it's always restrained just enough that it doesn't deviate too far from the album's common themes and overall sound. Each song's style perfectly fits the mood and lyrics it contains: "Disarm" is probably the best example, being a beautifully melancholic and primarily acoustic (and symphonic) ballad that has Corgan singing about the more negative aspects of his childhood and relationship with his parents. He might present himself as quite an arrogant individual on various news sites and interviews, but I don't think many people can deny that this is one of the most vulnerable vocal tracks ever put to a record.

What also really propels Siamese Dream above many of the albums of its day is how it handles its influences. There's a ton of 70s classic rock and dream pop that people can pick out on this record, especially from bands such as Queen and My Bloody Valentine, but once again, it's the blend of the old and the new that makes it all so enthralling. Look at a song like "Soma;" it is, for the most part, a very dreamlike alternative rock ballad whose sprawling motifs quite likely influenced Radiohead's late-90s work. But then it throws a wrench in the works by including an unbelievably gorgeous moment of guitar layering in the middle that recalls Queen guitarist Brian May's operatic harmonies. It doesn't last very long, but it somehow blends perfectly with the band's 90s sound and really makes a lasting impression long after the song is over. This is also reflected in the Mellotron playing in the ballad "Spaceboy," which has a sound similar to 70s progressive rock acts while skillfully retaining the characteristics of its own era, such as the more alternative and melancholic opening guitar lines. However, the beauty of it all is that Siamese Dream sounds like it could have been released today and still be relevant... THAT'S the sign of a truly timeless record. There's nothing here that sounds like a product of its time, despite the contemporary 90s influences and classic 70s/80s influences throughout the experience.

Finally, since Billy Corgan gets mentioned so much, I'd like to speak of the other musicians before I wrap things up; this is, by far, the best instrumental work that The Smashing Pumpkins have had. While Corgan helped D'arcy Wretzky with recording many of the bass lines on this album, James Iha's guitar work accompanies Corgan's playing very well and Jimmy Chamberlain is just a fucking monster on this thing. "Geek U.S.A." in particular is commonly cited to have some of the best drumming in rock history, and for good reason. In the end, what makes Siamese Dream work so wonderfully is that the band made the best of their darkest hour. They could have crashed and burned, crumbling under the pressure of hype and personal issues, but they ended up making these problems lyrical concepts and making music out of them. But the music that accompanies it is what's especially impressive, and the very thing that made this album the classic it is to this day. It's emotional, it's instrumentally proficient, it's personal, it's influential, it's a cornerstone of rock music, and it's one of the best albums ever made. Period.



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user ratings (3327)
Chart.
4.4
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Comments:Add a Comment 
Tunaboy45
June 25th 2015


16587 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Classic

zakalwe
June 25th 2015


26020 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

It is one of the best albums ever made. Full stop.

DoofusWainwright
June 25th 2015


20001 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

This is a whopping 5 all day every day

PumpBoffBag
June 25th 2015


933 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

brilliant review of an excellent album

NeroCorleone80
June 25th 2015


34491 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Nice work

Digging: Skin Chamber - Wound

Ryus
June 25th 2015


16623 Comments


there is zero mention of mayonaise here so i am not happy with you brendan!
nah but seriously, good review for a great album.

BigPleb
June 25th 2015


55894 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Easily the best Pumpkins album, true classic.

Digging: Azusa - Heavy Yoke

NeroCorleone80
June 25th 2015


34491 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Yeah nothing else they did comes remotely close

BigPleb
June 25th 2015


55894 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I like Melon Collie too but that a weak 4, suffers the fate of most double albums unfortunately.

Ryus
June 25th 2015


16623 Comments


yeah agreed. this is untouchable for them

DoofusWainwright
June 25th 2015


20001 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I really like Mellon Collie, 4.5'd it and was almost tempted with the 5 - a lot of hidden gems on there...where boys fear to tread, beautiful, lily, to forgive

Ocean of Noise
June 25th 2015


10373 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This is by far their best. Excellent review.

Digging: Buckethead - Pepper's Ghost

JWT155
June 25th 2015


14181 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Mayonaise is by far the best Pumpkins song.

DoofusWainwright
June 25th 2015


20001 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

'by far'...dude, this band have a lot of great songs, Mayo's a good 'un but it's one among many classics

JWT155
June 25th 2015


14181 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Eh I think a lot of their popular songs are over rated. I dig 1979, Bullet with butterfly Wings, Tonight, Tonight, etc but Mayonaise is in a league of its own.

Ocean of Noise
June 25th 2015


10373 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Mayonaise is pretty amazing yeah



Funnily enough all my favourite Pumpkins songs are on Mellon Collie but as a whole it's too inconsistent to be above a 3.5

SonofSnow
June 25th 2015


1726 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Melon Collie doesn't really have any duds for me, it's just a bit long to listen to all the way through in a single sitting.

SonofSnow
June 25th 2015


1726 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Not a critique but how this was phrased gave me a good laugh.



"...in a situation almost akin to Fleetwood Mac's Rumours, but luckily, Billy Corgan did the exact same thing the members of that group dealt with the problems: looking inward. He suffered a nervous breakdown and even planned to kill himself during the time of recording Siamese Dream"

JWT155
June 25th 2015


14181 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

The Story behind "Today" is fascinating. Struck with writers block and the studio about to pull funding from the Pumpkins, Corgan had one night to write a sing to impress their label or they were going to be dropped. Today is what he came up with. The whole song was a satire of the situation he was put in.

DoofusWainwright
June 25th 2015


20001 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

"Here's yer fresh pumpkin, no mayo and fries"



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