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fuzzed up

Siamese Dream

Siamese Dream is the second studio 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, dream pop, classic heavy metal, and the ornate mainstream rock of the 1970s and 1980s.

Despite recording sessions fraught with difficulties and tensions, Siamese Dream debuted at number ten on the Billboard charts, sold over four million copies in the U.S. and over six million worldwide, and cemented The Smashing Pumpkins as a major force in the alternative rock movement.

Background

The Smashing Pumpkins formed in Chicago in 1988. Their debut album, Gish, was released on Caroline Records in 1991 to unexpected success and acclaim. After the release of Nevermind later that year, the Smashing Pumpkins were hyped as "the next Nirvana". The band was signed to Caroline Records parent Virgin Records and began recording a follow-up album. Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan felt "this great pressure to make the next album set the world on fire." 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 relationship, and Corgan, aside from battles with weight gain and suicidal depression, was suffering from his worst-ever bout of writer's block.

Recording and production

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, and to cut Chamberlin off from his known drug connections. 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. "Today" was the first song written by Corgan for Siamese Dream. He played the self-recorded demo to Vig, and received a positive reaction. Soon afterwards, 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. The reaction from the executives only served to put more stress on Corgan. Corgan worked overtime, practically living in the studio for the recording of Siamese Dream - he and Butch 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.

Corgan's desire for musical perfection put further strain on the already frayed relationships between the band members. Vig would later recall, "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. 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. 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. Due to Corgan's urging, Chamberlin checked into a rehab clinic. 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.'

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. By the time recording was completed, Corgan and Vig felt too emotionally exhausted to mix the record. Corgan suggested that engineer Alan Moulder (who had worked on the 1991 album Loveless by My Bloody Valentine, a band Corgan was a fan of) mix the album. Moulder booked two weeks in a studio to mix the album; the mix ended up taking 36 days to complete. Eventually, the album was finished after four months and $250,000 over budget.

Music

Rolling Stone noted that the album emphasized "both the virtuosic interplay of Corgan and Jimmy Chamberlin and Corgan's confessional lyrics" and was "closer to progressive rock than to punk or grunge.

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". 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." For the album, the guitars were layered multiple times. Corgan has stated that "Soma" alone contains up to 40 overdubbed guitar parts. Vig stated that as many as 100 guitar parts were compressed into a single song.

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 with at the time he wrote the songs. Corgan occasionally wrote about other subjects. In "Cherub Rock", the album's opening track, Corgan attacked the American independent music scene. "Spaceboy" was written as a tribute to his half-brother, Jesse, who suffers from a genetic disease.

Release and reception

Siamese Dream was released on July 27, 1993. The following week it debuted at number ten on the Billboard charts. 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.

Entertainment Weekly gave the album a "B" rating; 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. 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. Robert Christgau of the Village Voice gave the album a three star honorable mention, selecting "Geek U.S.A." and "Today" as highlights.

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.

The album is frequently included in lists of the best albums of the 1990s - the Alternative Press ranked it 4th,, Pitchfork Media ranked it 18th, and Spin ranked it 23rd. In 2006, Q magazine readers voted it the 54th greatest album of all time.

Artwork

The artwork for the album was initially going to be created by an outside artist, but after a series of disagreements with the label, Corgan was forced to step in at the last minute. 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. Corgan was not satisfied with the results.

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, and the twins have not yet been located.

The album was also released as a shaped wooden box set (aka Siamese Dream Collectors Edition) with metal hinges limited to only 1000 copies which contains 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.

Track listing

All songs were written by Billy Corgan, except where noted.

  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. "" (Corgan, Iha) – 5:49
  10. "Spaceboy" – 4:28
  11. "Silverfuck" – 8:43
  12. "Sweet Sweet" – 1:39
  13. "Luna" – 3:20

Chart positions

Album

Year Chart Position
1994 UK Album Charts 4
1994 Australian Album Chart 7
1993 The Billboard 200 10

Singles

Year Single Chart Position
1993 "Cherub Rock" Modern Rock Tracks 7
1993 "Cherub Rock" Mainstream Rock Tracks 23
1993 "Cherub Rock" UK Singles Chart 31
1993 "Today" Modern Rock Tracks 4
1994 "Today" Mainstream Rock Tracks 28
1994 "Today" UK Singles Chart 44
1994 "Disarm" Mainstream Rock Tracks 5
1994 "Disarm" Modern Rock Tracks 8
1994 "Disarm" UK Singles Chart 11
1994 "Rocket" Mainstream Rock Tracks 28

Personnel

Notes and references

External links

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