Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Album Review: Smashing Pumpkins - Siamese Dream

Smashing Pumpkins were the least-punk influenced and therefore the proggiest band of the grunge era.  Their second album, Siamese Dream, released in 1993 was a huge leap forward from previous album Gish, where only Rhinocerous hinted at the sheer power of this album.
It sounds absolutely immense, brilliantly produced by frontman/control freak Billy Corgan and Butch Vig.  The guitars and Jimmy Chamberlain's drums sound immense on opener Cherub Rock, bursting out of the speakers.  Quiet continues in this vein with a bludgeoning, powerful riff.  It has to be said that Corgan's voice hasn't aged well, it has a rather grating tendency across the album.  But he is forgiven when his and James Iha's guitars are so good.
The intricate, picked guitar intro to the anthemic Today still thrills, while Hummer is an absolute lesson in band dynamics and pacing on a song, as guitars ebb and flow from gentle, blissed-out ripples to molten riffing, and back again.  The lyrics, however, are ridiculous: "life's a bummer, when you're a hummer".  Indeed.
The massive riffs of Rocket could almost be the Screaming Trees if Corgan's voice dropped an octave or seven, and this gives way to the tense strum-with-bells on of Disarm, another early 90s anthem which hasn't aged badly at all.  Once again it's brilliantly recorded, adding touches of strings here and there.
The faraway guitars of Soma signal another epic, beginning quietly, building gradually till the slabs of heavy, air-punching guitars crash through the song, spitting fire every which way, managing to overcome some fairly rotten lyrics: "I'm all by myself, as I've always felt".  We return to an uneasy peace at the end of the song before following track Geek USA barrels in, only letting up briefly midsong before Corgan's guitars pick up the pace again, becoming almost Black Sabbath in places.
The intensity lessens a little towards the end of the album.  But only a little.  Mayonaise is a fine midtempo rocker, while Spaceboy has a kind of classic rock ballad feel to it.  The only misstep is the longest track, the almost NINE minutes of pounding drums and guitars of  Silverfuck.  There's only so many times I can listen to Billy Corgan whine "bang bang you're dead".  The album ends with the blissed out Sweet Sweet and Luna, two relatively low key tracks. 
It's pretty much a seventies rock album updated for the early nineties.  But it still sounds superb, great melodies with towering guitars.  Dust it down and blow the cobwebs away.