Thursday, May 14, 2009

11. Siamese Dream - The Smashing Pumpkins, 1993 (Best of the 90s)

Siamese Dream

The Smashing Pumpkins
Virgin Records.

Like any decade, the 90s could’ve gone several different ways and, as always, the swing vote came down to who died. Had Cobain lived to see 2009, who would our 90s-hero be? Many might ignore our collective fascination with young death/suicide and stick to their guns, yet Cobain’s survival springs to mind some key contenders: Vedder, Cornell, even Courtney Love (and that’s without diving back into the other deceased candidates: Bradley Nowell or Blind Melon guy, for starters). Above them all should be Billy Corgan, who introduced alternative music and even if it’s now defunct, it’s hardly irrelevant to today’s rock scene. As disgraced as the current “Smashing Pumpkins” are – and by Pumpkins and are, I mean Corgan and is – his brand of guitar-rock outlived both the figureheads of grunge (Nirvana) and its illegitamite offspring (Bush).

Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness became the elephant of any alternative-oriented conversation, either representing the scene’s best affirmation of commercial interests or playing the scapegoat of a genius’ selling-out. Yet few debates arise at the mention of Siamese Dream; an album that presented the Smashing Pumpkins at their pinnacle of talent while giving birth to Corgan’s now intolerable ego. The record catches the Chicago-based quartet in transition, still arming themselves with the heavy guitar-riffs of Gish (‘Quiet’) while branching into softer territory with highlights such as ‘Sweet, Sweet’ and ‘Spaceboy’. Most foreshadowing of Corgan’s later enthrallment with prog-rock narratives (remember ‘Glass and the Ghost Children’, anyone?) is ‘Silverfuck’, although this track is still goosebump-raising in its thunderous dynamics between muted distortion and sudden guitar-attacks. Siamese Dream remains the band’s most unified album, and while we can argue over whether Corgan played everything but the drums, or whether producer Butch Vig pulled the whole thing together, we can probably all agree that it should nominate the band for 90s-hero consideration.

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