Siamese Dream

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Siamese Dream
Studio album by The Smashing Pumpkins
Released July 27, 1993
Recorded December 1992 – March 1993 at Triclops Sound Studios in Marietta, Georgia, United States
Genre Alternative rock
Length 62:17
Label Virgin
Producer Butch Vig, Billy Corgan
The Smashing Pumpkins chronology
Gish
(1991)
Siamese Dream
(1993)
Pisces Iscariot
(1994)
Singles from Siamese Dream
  1. "Cherub Rock"
    Released: July 13, 1993
  2. "Today"
    Released: September 30, 1993
  3. "Disarm"
    Released: March 22, 1994
  4. "Rocket"
    Released: 1994

Siamese Dream is the second album by the American alternative rock band The Smashing Pumpkins, released on July 27, 1993 on Virgin Records. The album fused diverse influences such as shoegazing,[1][2] dream pop,[3] heavy metal,[2] and progressive rock.

Despite recording sessions fraught with difficulties and tensions, Siamese Dream debuted at number ten on the Billboard charts, and eventually sold over four million copies in the U.S., and over six million worldwide,[4] cementing The Smashing Pumpkins as an important group in alternative rock music. Four singles were released in support of Siamese Dream: "Cherub Rock", "Today", "Disarm", and "Rocket". In addition to receiving mostly positive reviews upon its release, Siamese Dream has widely been regarded as one of the best albums of the 1990s, and one of the best albums of all time.[5] In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine ranked it number 362 on their 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list.[6]

Background[edit]

The band's debut album, Gish, was released on Caroline Records in 1991 to unexpected success and acclaim. After the release of Nirvana's Nevermind later that year, The Smashing Pumpkins were hyped as "the next Nirvana".[7] The band was signed to Caroline Records parent Virgin Records and began recording a follow-up album. Frontman Billy Corgan felt "this great pressure to make the next album set the world on fire".[8] The immense pressure to succeed intensified an already problematic situation: drummer Jimmy Chamberlin was undergoing an increasingly severe addiction to heroin, guitarist James Iha and bassist D'arcy Wretzky had recently ended their romantic relationship and Corgan, aside from battles with weight gain and suicidal depression,[9] was suffering from his worst-ever bout of writer's block.[10]

Recording and production[edit]

Siamese Dream was recorded mainly between December 1992 and March 1993. The band relocated to Triclops Studios in Marietta, Georgia for the album sessions, so they could avoid local friends and distractions,[11] and to cut Chamberlin off from his known drug connections.[12] Butch Vig reprised his role as producer after working on their debut album Gish.

After he suffered a nervous breakdown, Corgan began visiting a therapist. Consequently his lyrics became more explicit about his troubled past and his insecurities.[11] "Today" was the first song written by Corgan for Siamese Dream.[10] He played the self-recorded demo to Vig, and received a positive reaction.[10] Soon afterward, executives from Virgin Records came to observe the band after hearing about their problems, but were pleased with the demo and did not soon return to the studio.[10] The reaction from the executives only served to put more stress on Corgan.[7] Corgan worked overtime, practically living in the studio for the recording of Siamese Dream—he and Vig would sometimes work on a 45-second section of music for two days, working 16-hour days for weeks at a time to achieve the sound Corgan wanted.[12]

Corgan's desire for musical perfection put further strain on the already-frayed relationships between the band members. Vig later recalled, "D'arcy would lock herself in the bathroom, James wouldn't say anything, or Billy would lock himself in the control room". Corgan often overdubbed Iha's and Wretzky's parts with his own playing.[11] Wretzky stated that Corgan only performed most of the guitar and bass parts because he could lay them down in recording easier and with far fewer takes.[12] Stories of the album's recording had circulated in the music press. Corgan admitted there was some truth to accusations of tyrannical behavior, though he felt the press misunderstood the situation.[13]

While Chamberlin performed all drum parts on the album, he would disappear for days on drug benders that caused everyone to fear for his life. After one incident where the drummer had disappeared for two or three days, Corgan "put the hammer down", according to Vig, and had Chamberlin perform the drum part for "Cherub Rock" until his hands bled.[11] Due to Corgan's urging, Chamberlin checked into a rehab clinic.[12] Corgan told Spin later that year, "You know, I gave them a year and a half to prepare for this record... I'm surrounded by these people who I care about very much, yet they continue to keep failing me." Corgan explained that he began to take the actions of others personally; he said, "If you really think about it, of course, someone doesn't do the job because they're lazy, or they don't think it's important. But I took it as, 'You're not worth going home and working on the song.'"[14]

Meanwhile Corgan was also going through his own problems. He would admit in 2011 that throughout the recording process he had been planning his own suicide. Stating that he had given rid of most of his things and was "fantasising about my own death, I started thinking what my funeral would be like and what music would be played"[15]

Virgin began to grow impatient with the album's recording as it went over budget and became behind schedule. The band, however, would not let the company cut corners if it meant compromising the sound.[12] By the time recording was completed, Corgan and Vig felt too emotionally exhausted to mix the record. Corgan suggested that engineer Alan Moulder mix the album, due to his work on Loveless by My Bloody Valentine.[16] Moulder booked two weeks in a studio to mix the album; the mix ended up taking 36 days to complete.[17] Eventually, the album was finished after four months and $250,000 over budget.[12]

Music[edit]

Sample of "Cherub Rock" from Siamese Dream (1993), which features layers of guitar overdubs influenced by arena rock and shoegazing, as well as repeated use of "the Pumpkin chord".

A 20-second sample of "Today" from The Smashing Pumpkins' 1993 album, Siamese Dream. This sample illustrates the song's dynamic changes when it moves from the refrain to the first verse.

Corgan would sing about his depression throughout the album and "Disarm" would be the clearest example of this.

Problems playing these files? See media help.

The album boasts relatively high production values and ornate arrangements compared to other early-1990s alternative albums. Vig said, "Billy wanted to make a record that people would put on and say, 'What the fuck was that?' [...] We wanted to have things going on in the left ear and right ear all the time".[11] One of Corgan's main goals was to create a sense of sonic depth, but, as Corgan said, "without necessarily using delays or reverbs—to use tonalities instead."[18] For the album, the guitars were layered multiple times. Corgan has stated that "Soma" alone contains up to 40 overdubbed guitar parts.[19] Vig stated that as many as 100 guitar parts were compressed into a single song.[11] Rolling Stone noted that the album was "closer to progressive rock than to punk or grunge."[20]

The subjects of Corgan's lyrics on Siamese Dream varied. Corgan noted that most of his lyrics for the album were about his girlfriend and future wife Chris Fabian, with whom he had briefly broken up at the time he wrote the songs.[18] Corgan occasionally wrote about other subjects. In "Cherub Rock", the album's opening track, Corgan attacked the American music industry,[21] and "Today" is about a day that he was experiencing depression and suicidal thoughts.[9] "Spaceboy" was written as a tribute to his autistic half-brother, Jesse.[22]

Release and reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Source Rating
Metacritic 96/100[23]
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 5/5 stars[24]
The A.V. Club (A)[25]
Chicago Tribune 4/4 stars[26]
Consequence of Sound 5/5 stars[27]
PopMatters (10/10)[28]
Pitchfork (10/10)[29]
Robert Christgau (3-star Honorable Mention)[30]
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars (Reissue)[31]
Slant Magazine 5/5 stars [32]
Uncut (8/10)[33]

Siamese Dream was released on July 27, 1993. The following week, it debuted at number ten on the Billboard charts.[34] The album was almost universally lauded by music critics.

Entertainment Weekly reviewer David Browne praised the band for living up to industry expectations of being the "next Nirvana" and compared Siamese Dream favorably to Nirvana's Nevermind. Browne concluded, "In aiming for more than just another alternative guitar record, Smashing Pumpkins may have stumbled upon a whole new stance: slackers with a vision."[34] Critic Simon Reynolds disagreed; he wrote in his review for The New York Times that "fuzzed-up riffs and angst-wracked vocals are quite the norm these days, and Smashing Pumpkins lacks the zeitgeist-defining edge that made Nirvana's breakthrough so thrilling and resonant."[35] Robert Christgau of the Village Voice gave the album a three star honorable mention, selecting "Geek U.S.A." and "Today" as highlights.[30]

Siamese Dream earned The Smashing Pumpkins their first Grammy Award nominations. The album was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album, and the group was nominated for Best Hard Rock Performance with Vocal at the Grammy Awards of 1994.[36] The album is frequently included in lists of the best albums of the 1990s—the Alternative Press ranked it fourth,[37] Pitchfork ranked it 18th,[38] and Spin ranked it 23rd.[8] In 2003, the album was ranked number 360 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.[39]

Packaging[edit]

The artwork for the album was initially going to be created by an outsider artist, but after a series of disagreements with the label, Corgan was forced to step in at the last minute.[40] The album booklet, composed of old photographs of both strangers and Corgan's family members with lyrics handwritten on top, was assembled by Corgan and his wife the day after their wedding.[40] Corgan was not satisfied with the results.[40] The first pressing of the CD contained a 20-page booklet, with a separate page devoted to each song's lyrics and accompanying photograph; later pressings contained a four-panel fold-out liner with thumbnails of each picture. In 1999, Virgin records reissued the album with the original 20-page booklet.[41]

Shortly after the Pumpkins reformed in 2007, Corgan posted a message to the band's blog saying that they were "[l]ooking for girls from Siamese Dream album cover... As you all know, they were quite young when the photo was taken. They are not conjoined anymore, as far as we know." The band's intentions for the search were never made clear.[42] In February 2011, Billy Corgan announced via Twitter that not only had one of the girls been found, she was the current bassist for the Pumpkins, Nicole Fiorentino. According to Corgan, "Just found out the weirdest news: our bass player Nicole just admitted she is one of the girls on the cover of Siamese Dream."[43] However, according to the assistant photographer for Siamese Dream, the cover photo was probably shot specifically for the album. Given Fiorentino's age at the time of the album, this would make her too old to be on the cover of the album.[44] It was later confirmed that the information was false, and both girls were located in 2008, though Corgan has not commented on this. Pictures exist of Billy standing with Ali Laenger, the girl on the right side of the photograph, but it is unknown if the girl on the left, identified only as LySandra R, met Billy like Laenger did.[45]

The album was also released as a shaped wooden box set (aka Siamese Dream Collectors Edition) with metal hinges, limited to only 1,000 copies and containing the UK HUT CD album housed in a recess with individually numbered silver metal embossed plate at the side and a 20-page booklet housed in a similar recess in the lid. Though the CD itself and the booklet are official and genuine, the wooden box is not an official Virgin (US) or HUT (UK) release.[46]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Billy Corgan, except where noted. 

No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Cherub Rock"     4:58
2. "Quiet"     3:41
3. "Today"     3:19
4. "Hummer"     6:57
5. "Rocket"     4:06
6. "Disarm"     3:17
7. "Soma"   Corgan, James Iha 6:39
8. "Geek U.S.A."     5:13
9. "Mayonaise"   Corgan, Iha 5:50
10. "Spaceboy"     4:28
11. "Silverfuck"     8:43
12. "Sweet Sweet"     1:38
13. "Luna"     3:20

Reissue bonus material[edit]

Personnel[edit]

Charts and certifications[edit]

References[edit]

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  3. ^ Best 20 Albums of the Year [8.Smashing Pumpkins - Siamese Dream] 9 (10). Spin. January 1994. p. 40. ISSN 0886-3032. Retrieved November 28, 2012. 
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External links[edit]