On July 27, 1993, the day the Smashing Pumpkins released their second studio, Siamese Dream, grunge was a massive force in what was played on rock radio. Bands like Bush and Stone Temple Pilots used the sound to forward their own careers, while fans of groups such as Soundgarden and Nirvana were realizing they had music out earlier than "Smells Like Teen Spirit." But what Billy Corgan and his mates in the Smashing Pumpkins did was just...well, different.
Even today, Corgan doesn't make music that sounds just like someone else. He borrows ideas of other bands, of course, because all musical artists do. But while Siamese Dream was heavy, it most definitely was not grunge.
The album was recorded in Marietta, Georgia. That is about as far away as one can get from Seattle, Washington both musically and culturally. Triclops Stuido was chosen for the recording because the band wanted to help drummer James Chamberlain easy access to his drug dealers and the group wanted to avoid the distractions of friends and family. But the band still had internal concerns.
Smashing Pumpkins' Siamese Dream stands the test of time
Corgan was battling depression and writer's block, Chamberlain has his drug problem, and guitarist James Iha and bassist D'Arcy Wretzky had just broken up. But from great suffering comes great art at times, and Siamese Dream might be proof of that.
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But does the album hold up after 30 years? The answer to that is an emphatic yes! Most of the reason the album still sounds fresh and excellent is due to the meticulous production of Corgan and Butch Vig. The time it took to layer so much guitar sound must have been intense enough.
But while there are certainly tracks of full-throated and wall of sound heaviness, such as "Geek U.S.A.", there are also moments of absolute beauty, like "Disarm," and album closer "Luna." But the songs are so well conceived that they aren't as simple as whether to use an acoustic guitar or an electric. Even completely stripped down, "Today" has a gorgeous melody.
Instead, the Smashing Pumpkins found a way to take a track like "Mayonaise" and turn it into a song that was extremely heavy and also touching. This is what makes the album so special. The record is expansive but with enough fjords of quiet that a band with less vision and talent would have turned into an epic failure. Instead, Siamese Dream should still be in heavy rotation in your collection.