“Siamese Dream,” the sophomore effort from the alternative band Smashing Pumpkins, is considered by many to be one of the defining albums of the early ?s. Often obscured by its successors, the epic “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness,” this album displays the true ability of the band to create an emotional example of sonic bliss.
Arriving on the popular music scene at the start of the ?s, the Smashing Pumpkins were unlike several of their alt-rock peers. While others were writing about the effects of corporate America on their generation, songwriter Billy Corgan was focused on the personal emotions of disillusioned youth. Corgan’s remarkable talent for representing the angst felt by so many is at its best on “Siamese Dream.” Except for the opening track, “Cherub Rock,” which examines the greed of the music industry, each song deals with the individual struggle faced by so many teens.
The music on this album is pure, raw emotion, and far from simple. The sound itself, defined by Corgan’s distinctive whine, heavily distorted guitars and Jimmy Chamberlin’s jazz-influenced drumming, borders on experimental, while the lyrics that complement each piece are profoundly intriguing. One who casually listens to the radio hit “Today” sees an optimistic, light-hearted tune, yet under closer analysis, it proves to be gloomy, sarcastic and perhaps the darkest song on the album. The band proves they can write a head-banging, fist-pumping rocker with “Geek USA” and displays excellent musicianship on “Disarm,” a bitter, haunting piece that builds from a simple acoustic strum to a crescendo of string melodies. The ballad “Mayonnaise” is an ode to the desire to belong, and is a favorite of many. The musical journey concludes with “Luna,” an almost ethereal love song.
The overall sound of this album is undeniably unique, with influences ranging from heavy, arena rock bands to underground experimental groups like My Bloody Valentine.
With “Siamese Dream,” the Smashing Pumpkins created a tapestry of youthful desperation, which, unlike many bands of the time, favored a sense of hope over complete nihilism. It is a landmark album of the alternative rock revolution, and perhaps this now defunct band’s crowning achievement.