[Today: Billy Corgan is killing me softly with his song…]
“Smashing Pumpkins were meant to be an ambitious project, and I want our recordings to be perfect,” group mastermind Billy Corgan told Guitar Player magazine in 1992. With their sophomore effort, the Pumpkins came close to realizing Corgan’s grand ambitions. Siamese Dream rolls seamlessly back and forth between intense, buzzing guitar solos and peaceful, light melodies – often within a single song. It’s the kind of album that stereo salesmen use to win over potential clients.
This music sounds like the work of a group that’s totally on the same page, but in truth the band members were barely speaking during these sessions, and legend has it that Corgan played everything but Jimmy Chamberlain’s drum kit. Some songs on Siamese Dream contain upwards of 100 guitar tracks, and Corgan and co-producer Butch Vig (who also produced Nirvana’s Nevermind) carefully layered raw solos, sizzling feedback, and the occasional splash of strings and mellotron. As Rolling Stone noted in its original review, “…even the most chaotic pileups of distortion are painstakingly orchestrated.”
Smashing Pumpkins were considered part of the grunge movement, but mainly because they had a key track on the genre-defining Singles soundtrack, and Billy Corgan’s vocals are dripping with angst. The lyrics here reflect some of his personal issues at the time, and most of the songs center around phrases (“The killer in me is the killer in you” or “Today is the greatest day I’ve ever known”) that sound like fortune cookies for profoundly anxious people. Corgan and company perfectly combined the technical flatulence of Prog with the fire and brimstone of Metal and the confessional self-probing of a Singer/Songwriter, and the result was one of the very best albums of the 90’s.
This group has a history of punishing live audiences with ear-splitting decibel-levels, but Siamese Dream is an album that reveals its inner dimensions – and is best enjoyed – when played as loud as possible.
Listen: Cherub Rock