Siamese Dream by Smashing Pumpkins

Siamese Dream by Smashing PumpkinsBuilding on the surprise success of their debut album Gish, the Smashing Pumpkins matured their blend of dream pop, heavy metal, and progressive rock on Siamese Dream, a blockbuster album which eventually sold over six million worldwide. Co-produced by Butch Vig and the group’s leader and primary composer Billy Corgan, the album has high level production for early nineties alternative rock, which intentionally aimed for loose arrangements and a raw, basic sound. The producers goals were to create a work with great sonic depth and layered sounds built the “old fashioned” way using multiple overdubs and sonic harmonies.

Despite the successful end result, the actual making of this record was quite tumultuous. The band was upgraded from Caroline Records to the parent Virgin Records and high expectations for this this sophomore record put immense pressure on the band. Further complicating things was a severe heroin addiction by drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, which was the motivating factor for the band relocating to Triclops Studios in Marietta, Georgia for the album sessions, so they could Chamberlin off from his known drug connections. Corgan took on ever-increasing roles in the studio, often overdubbing or re-recording tracks by his band mates if he felt he can improve on them.

Executives from Virgin began to grow impatient with the album’s recording as it went over budget and became behind schedule and even came to the studio to observe the band after hearing about their problems. This move only served to put more stress on Corgan, who would not let the company cut corners if it meant compromising the sound. Eventually the album came in about $250,000 over budget and by the time recording was completed, Corgan and Vig were too exhausted to continue and employed engineer Alan Moulder to mix the album.
 


Siamese Dream by Smashing Pumpkins
Released: July 27, 1993 (Virgin)
Produced by: Butch Vig & Billy Corgan
Recorded: Triclops Sound Studios in Marietta, GA, December 1992-March 1993
Track Listing Band Musicians
Cherub Rock
Quiet
Today
Hummer
Rocket
Disarm
Soma
Geek USA
Mayonaise
Spaceboy
Silverfuck
Sweet Sweet
Luna
Billy Corgan – Lead Vocals, Guitars
James Iha – Guitars, Vocals
D’arcy Wretzky – Bass, Vocals
Jimmy Chamberlin – Drums
 
Siamese Dream by Smashing Pumpkins

 
A couple of short drum rolls give a false beginning before the “Cherub Rock” builds in an ever-intensifying one minute intro. The several vocal styles by Corgan are displayed immediately with the good alternative hook “Let me out!” being the most indelible moment in the song. Like several tracks on this album, “Cherub Rock” was recorded by Corgan and Chamberlin alone. “Quiet” follows with a classic metal-like revolving riff. However, the song never really gets to any satisfactory destination.

“Today” was the first song written by Corgan for Siamese Dream. Beginning with quiet picked notes which give way to full-fledged grunge riff topped by a catchy and melodic melody. While topically upbeat, the song contains dark lyrics which Corgan wrote the song about a day in which he was having suicidal thoughts, supplying great contrast between the grim subject matter and bouncy tune which brought the band popularity through widespread radio airplay. “Hummer” contains an opening montage constructed by noise-heavy sound effects which later gives way to a calmer bass by D’arcy Wretzky and great guitar textures throughout, although the song does kind of lose steam about halfway through its seven minute duration. “Rocket” is almost a dance song with its steady and methodical rhythms, making it the fourth and final single from the album.
 

 
The most acclaimed song on the album is “Disarm”, an acoustic song with heavy string and “bell” effects which make for a very moody, melodic and theatrical feel throughout. Unlike many of the songs on Siamese Dream, which are lengthy and tend to wear out their welcome, “Disarm” is short at barely over three minutes. Despite being banned by the BBC, the song peaked at number 11 on the UK singles chart. “Soma” was co-written by guitarist James Iha and is very quiet and restrained until it breaks into a heavier version of the same emo theme for effect. The song contains about 40 overdubbed guitar parts, demonstrating the meticulous production techniques. Chamberlin gets much acclaim for his performance in “Geek U.S.A.” with a heavy drum roll and heavy metal riff. The song is a reworked version of an earlier song by the band entitled “Suicide Kiss”.

The latter part of the album is less even and less heralded. “Mayonaise” is another collaboration between Corgan and Iha and begins with a strummed electric and some lightly-bluesy, unplugged little riffs before once again progressing to the heavy riffs. Almost romantic in its approach, the song has a decent melody and garnered considerable radio play despite not being released as a single. “Spaceboy” is an acoustic, Bowie-esque song with heavy mellotron added by Corgan, who wrote the song as a tribute to his autistic half-brother. “Silverfuck” contains some sonic textures but the melodies and overall vocals are kind of weak. “Sweet Sweet” is a 12-string ballad arranged like a Scottish folk song but with the distinctive Corgan vocals leading to the the calm and decent closer “Luna” which is almost upbeat in tone, ending the album in a whole different place than it was played out on throughout its duration.

Siamese Dream earned The Smashing Pumpkins their first Grammy nominations in 1994 and established the band as a top level act in the ever-popular alternative genre which had yet to peak.

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Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of 1993 albums.

1993 Images

 

Gish by The Smashing Pumpkins

Gish by Smashing PumkinsGish is the debut album by alternative rock band Smashing Pumpkins, released independently in 1991. The album was co-produced by Butch Vig and recorded in his studio in Madison, Wisconsin. The other co-producer was the band’s lead vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter Billy Corgan who worked tirelessly on getting the right sound, spending hours each on everything from harmonies to guitar tones to drum tunings. This was highly unusual for indy recordings at the time, which were usually recorded “nearly live” in a few days due to shoe-string budgets. This album had about 30 days of working sessions and was very intense and stressful for the four band members.

The result is a technically proficient album with strong performances by all members, starting with the beautifully executed syncopation by drummer Jimmy Chamberlain, who was described as a jazz/hard-rock drum freak let loose on alt-rock radio. Along with Corgan, the rich and layered guitars were performed by James Iha, who has a knack for playing catchy melodies. Rounding out the lineup is bassist D’arcy Wretzky, whose low, cutting bass lines have been compared to that of Black Sabbath’s Geezer Butler.

The album itself has two distinctive influences – a hard-edged, alternative metal and a softer, psychedelic, dreamy influence. On Gish, these distinctions are often pulled apart, making it slightly unballanced overall, top-heavy with the songs with the most punch up front. Corgan was the son of a professional jazz guitarist and started his musical career in the early 1980’s forming the the Smashing Pumpkins in 1988 in Chicago.
 


Gish by Smashing Pumpkins
Released: May 28, 1991 (Caroline)
Produced by: Butch Vig & Billy Corgan
Recorded: Smart Studios, Madison, WI, December 1990–March 1991
Track Listing Band Musicians
I Am One
Siva
Rhinoceros
Bury Me
Crush
Suffer
Snail
Tristessa
Window Paine
Daydream
Billy Corgan – Lead Vocals, Guitars
James Iha – Guitars, Vocals
D’arcy Wretzky – Bass, Vocals
Jimmy Chamberlin – Drums

Gish by Smashing Pumkins

 
Four songs on the album were previously recorded as demos in 1989. “I Am One” starts the album and was Smashing Pumpkin’s first single. A frenetic and explosive rocker led by Chamberlin’s opening groove and the many layers of guitars by Corgan and Iha. The closer “Daydream” is also in this group, although it varies widely as a folky number featuring D’Arcy on lead vocals and including a “hidden track” at the very end.

The psychedelic “Rhinoceros” contains a cool and unique tremolo guitar and almost whispered vocals, giving an effect that is at once fascinating and nerve wracking. At over 6 minutes, it is the longest song on the album and provides a glimpse into the type of material that the band would develop in later years. It is one of the few early songs that would be performed live consistently throughout the band’s career.
 

 
A couple more of the heavier songs on the album are “Siva”, with flowing feedback and crunchy guitars and the catchy “Bury Me”, which is held together by D’Arcy’s bassline and features co-lead vocals by Iha.

Then there are the dreamy/pop sixties-influenced numbers. “Suffer” is a steady jam with soft, chiming riffs and beats by all band members. It includes several soun effects, like a distored sitar approximation and a strange flute solo. Corgan has described “Snail” as his favorite from this album primarily because it is so unapparent as anything of quality upon first listen, but slowly creeps into a better place. “Tristessa” took its title from Jack Kerouac’s 1960 novella of the same name. The word is Spanish for “sadness” and the song was originally pressed as a 7″ single prior to the release of this album.

Released prior to the more heralded 1991 albums by Pearl Jam and Nirvana, Gish nonetheless paved the way for Smashing Pumpkins to become one of the most important alt-rock bands of the 1990s. Although the album had no chart success and many mainstream critics didn’t look at this album untll the years when the band’s popularity was exploding, Gish eas the highest selling independent album for three years following its release.

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R.A.