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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

10. Smashing Pumpkins: Siamese Dream

When your drummer is severely addicted to heroin, your guitarist and bassist are in the midst of a bitter feud (having just broke off their relationship), and your frontman is a suicidally depressed can anything other than a magnificently powerful album be the result?

Citing the success of their first album, Gish, in 1991, and the release of Nirvana's Nevermind and Pearl Jam's Ten later that year, critics labeled the Smashing Pumpkins as "can't miss"..."the next Nirvana". This incredible pressure to succeed intensified their already problematic situations. Yet, somehow, they managed to not kill themselves (or each other) throughout the writing and recording process, and created their brilliant second album, Siamese Dream in 1993. 

Siamese Dream spawned four great singles. Three of them, "Cherub Rock", "Today", and "Rocket", were thick with fuzz, and hit hard...continuing the style of Gish.  The effect-laden sounds of layer upon layer of guitar fused with Billy Corgan's vocals produced a highly creative noise designed to repeatedly smack you in the ears. They were not, however, limited to screams and fuzzy guitars. Similar to Nirvana's "Polly" and Pearl Jam's "Black", the Smashing Pumpkins had "Disarm", the album's fourth single...a softer, personal song. The four singles stand out as obvious radio-play choices, but every song on Siamese Dream is strong. Other great tracks include "Quiet", "Mayonaise" and the near nine minute "Silverf**k".

I saw the Smashing Pumpkins at a club in Portland in 1993. It was a fast paced show...high energy all the way through. However, only two distinct memories from the concert come to mind. I remember Billy Corgan thanking Shudder To Think and The Frogs for opening the show and then threatening to end the night right then and there if the crowd continued to boo The Frogs. I think he said, "Do not boo The Frogs. DO NOT boo The Frogs. We will walk off this stage right now if you boo The Frogs." The Frogs were awful (Though, mysteriously, they have a decent cult following). I also remember Corgan on stage, by himself, under a spotlight, closing the show with the beautiful "Sweet Sweet" from Siamese Dream. Here, however, is the video to "Cherub Rock", the song Rolling Stone readers picked as the 25th greatest guitar track of all time. Thanks for reading!

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