Friday, September 30, 2016

1993 - Siamese Dream

When Siamese Dream was released in the summer of '93 it was hailed as alternative rock's first great post-Nevermind LP. And while it went on to overwhelming commercial success, it simultaneously redrew the artistic boundaries of post punk. By combining neo-psychedelic AOR guitars with Pumpkin auteur Billy Corgan's "outsider" lyrical stance, Siamese Dream created a rebel image but one with a wandering eye towards mainstream acceptance. Consequently, Smashing Pumpkins are equally successful relating to Lollapaloozers and to classic rockers. Studio production to rival Steely Dan, Corgan and co-producer Butch Vig sculpted a sonic wall of guitar - using up to 32 separate guitar tracks on a single song - that is electrifying in its sheer scope and power. Along with Jimmy Chamberlain's powercore drumming, guitarists Corgan and James Iha's thick sound endows SD with a fresh feel that holds up 25 years later - and how many other "top ten" albums of the 90s can you say that about? Despite its chaos and abrasiveness, it manages to soothe simultaneously with its evocations of times past, nostalgic in the most beautiful way.

With the release of the underrated Gish, The Smashing Pumpkins instantly became one of the most fascinating indie acts to emerge from the 80s. While  the debut succeeded in delicately crafting a unique blend of grungy guitars and MBV dream pop aspirations, Gish barely scratched the surface of the Pumpkins' wildly ambitious core. It wasn't until Siamese Dream, that the Pumpkins' amazing potential fully gave way to an aural avalanche of achievement. With group tensions running at an all time high (drug use, breakups depression), the gushing torrents of emotions and talent struck a perfect, hypnotizing harmony. The guitars flow with staggering might, the drums pound with menacing precision, and Billy Corgan's voice rings out in a shrill, sweet angst ridden declaration. And yet somehow, all the dozens of layered riffs and piles of synthesized distortion manage to create something supremely beautiful at the heart of their frenzy, channeling despair and anguish into hopeful introspection instead of direction-less aggression. This unnatural blend of hope and despair, beauty and power is idyllic to the point of surrealism, soothing the senses in a way that defies description. The songs symbolize a dawning of acceptance and a realization of emotional equilibrium, but most important of all, Siamese Dream marked the point when The Smashing Pumpkins changed from being simply great to truly awe inspiring. Still the single greatest triumph of Corgan's tortured adolescent soul, Siamese Dream will forever stand as one of indie rock's most inspiring masterpieces, destined to prod the imaginations and massage the souls of countless generations to come. Indeed, an AM10 in amidst an otherwise 10-less void. Despite