The Smashing Pumpkins – Siamese Dream (1993): Review

siamese

Produced by Billy Corgan and Butch Vig
Label – Virgin

The success of Smashing Pumpkins debut “Gish” had led to a raft of critical acclaim and an anticipation that the Illinois four piece had the potential to rival Nirvana as the new darlings of grunge. For front man and chief songwriter Billy Corgan the pressure that came with creating a sophomore record that would be the glorious proclamation, and confirm their status as genuine contenders as the biggest alternative rock band squeezed all the extremes from his personality. A deep depression would cause Corgan to consider his own suicide following the release, and with little faith in his band members he recorded virtually all the guitar and bass parts himself. Had he been able to play drums then it’s likely he would have dispensed with the services of the heroin addicted Jimmy Chamberlain. Given Corgan’s mental fragility and megalomaniac tendencies, “Siamese Dream” is incredible in its discipline and cohesion, and is still a stand out recording from the decade. Its ultimate success would catapult the band from college mainstays to mainstream superstars. Indeed, it was the singer’s long held ambition to be bigger than Indie world, with the bristling opener “Cherub Rock” casting a single fingered digit to anyone who doubted their widescreen scope and intention to dominate album charts throughout the world. Whilst “Gish” was an album full of acid laced head bangers, this fastidiously recorded collection carried a multidimensional combination of weary melancholy and feisty, expansive hard rock.

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Despite the modernistic razor sharp tenacity that’s clearly evident, “Siamese Dream” is a record heavily influenced by British rock music from the past. The sound of Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd are never far from Corgan’s sonic explorations. Whilst the arrangements and melodies are incredibly self assured, lyrically there’s a stark confrontation with the debilitating issues of insecurity and solitary desperation. Whether it’s feelings of parental neglect (“Disarm”), impending divorce (“Soma”/”Hummer”), or sadness for his brother’s handicap (“Spaceboy”), each song feels painfully personal. The collection is consistent too, and listened to in its entirety, it is difficult to pick out a definitive highlight. The epic “Silverfuck” probably comes closest, emphasising the raw power, meticulously layered dynamics and an eerie hint of 60s pyschedelia. For something so thoroughly awash in lyrical angst the music and arrangements are by definition, deliberately clinical, fresh, but most importantly hard as granite.

Whether Billy Corgan found “Siamese Dream” to be some sort of mental exorcism we’ll never know. What we can ascertain however, is that he was a songwriter and performer who had reached his potential, resulting in a collection that many believe is his greatest work. Personal anguish has rarely sounded as viscerally potent as the 13 songs that constitute this album.

8/10

Track Ratings
1 – Cherub Rock (8)
2 – Quiet (7)
3 – Today (7)
4 – Hummer (8)
5 – Rocket (7)
6 – Disarm (8)
7 – Soma (8)
8 – Geek U.S.A (7)
9 – Mayonaise (7)
10 – Spaceboy (7)
11 – Silverfuck (9)
12 – Sweet Sweet (7)
13 – Luna (8)

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