REWIND: Ranking the top five tracks from the Smashing Pumpkins' breakthrough record
Siamese Dream turns 25 this month.
While their debut album Gish had been received as a beautiful mess, follow-up Siamese Dream introduced the world to The Smashing Pumpkins faster than you could say "Homer Simpson, smiling politely".
But the story behind the album is one of depression, addiction and confrontation.
Though lead singer Billy Corgan was a musician overloaded with talent and ambition, he also had a penchant for control freakery.
That Siamese Dream was such a spectacular articulation of his vision should come as no surprise. In later years, the rest of the band revealed that Corgan ended up overdubbing most of James Iha's rhythm guitar parts and almost all of D'arcy Wretzky's bass-lines, because he thought he could record them in fewer takes and play them better.
In another case, Corgan had drummer Jimmy Chamberlin play until his hands were bleeding.
While recording the album, the band had every reason to fall apart. In addition to Corgan's iron fist in the studio, drummer Jimmy Chamberlain was mired in the depths of heroin addiction. Iha and Wretzky had recently ended their romantic engagement. Pressure from Virgin was mounting on the band to take up the mantle of "the next Nirvana".
Tracks like 'Silverfuck,' which clocked in at eight minutes and 43 seconds illustrated the scale of the band's capacity for groundbreaking. That they would immediately follow it up with the vignette 'Sweet, Sweet,' reminiscent of 'Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want' by The Smiths, hammered home the band's knack for doing something unexpected and unpredictable.
The albums hits, like 'Today' and 'Disarm', exhibited a songwriting skill that wasn't surpassed by any of the band's contemporaries in the early and mid-nineties. Bar none.
Producer Butch Vig, famous for his work with Nirvana, confirmed that one of the songs featured 100 guitar tracks laid over each other. A new melody or theme can be discovered on each listen of Siamese Dream, like the sonic equivalent of one of those new video games that would take a billion years to complete.
Siamese Dream proved that Smashing Pumpkins could rock out like Soundgarden or Pearl Jam, compose heartbreaking ballads like Fleetwood Mac, gaze at their shoes like My Bloody Valentine and bang out a fuzzy alt-pop hit like The Pixies in their pomp. All these things together meant that Smashing Pumpkins were a band like nobody else.
It is worth noting that the Smashing Pumpkins have partially reunited (Corgan and Wretzky haven't spoken in 19 years) and are back on the road now, even though for all intents and purposes, Billy Corgan is weirder than ever. And he was pretty weird to begin with.
We've ranked the five best songs from Siamese Dream:
5. Geek USA
Clip via Wout Wout
Chamberlin's indefatigable drumming, Corgan's guitar wailing, and the pounding rhythm of 'Geek USA' make it an almost-unique song on Siamese Dream.
The record devoted a lot of time to indulging Corgan's psychedelic instincts, or letting him slow down the tempo when he wanted to. This track is unbridled rock 'n' roll, replete with all the energy that propelled Smashing Pumpkins to the top.
Clip via Jason SFSD
Though the Pumpkins are most closely associated with the advent of grunge, their ballads have stood the test of time as well as their bangers.
Many of Corgan's best songs were laced with real sentiment. 'Spaceboy' was a song about Corgan's experience of supporting his autistic brother in a broken home.
Writing about his brother in the album's re-issue, Corgan said: "My little brother was born ‘not right.’ The doctors advise that he be put in a state home, to be raised without love or family. “He will be a burden upon you,” a miracle we shall keep. He is an astronaut, a wandering soul."
It's a profound and heartfelt feeling that pulses through each note of 'Spaceboy', and a testament to the early musical maturity of the band.
Clip via Raichu Gordo
'Mayonaise' exemplified the colourfully immersive vortex of sound that Billy Corgan wanted listeners to be sucked into on Siamese Dream. The opening melodies twist around one another like strands of light across the brain, giving the listener something for their left ear and something for their right ear.
On an album of lofty ambition, 'Mayonnaise' kept it simple. Despite its indulgent riffs, the song relied on fuzzy power chords, and its most powerful moment follows the stripped back breakdown.
Clip via Smashing Pumpkins
That the Pumpkins are regarded as a far more versatile band than their othe grunge-era peers began with Disarm.
Disarm is the moment that teenage angst gives way to a more profound introspection, executed with heart-wrenching perfection. The track showed that there were no limits to the kind of songs that Billy Corgan could write, and no holds on the quality he could deliver in their execution.
Church bells, orchestral drums and strings were employed for Disarm, and Billy Corgan's wrenching cry of "I'll send this smile over to you" is unforgettable.
Tracks like this one absolutely laid the ground work for future classics like 'Tonight, Tonight', '1979' and 'Thirty-Three'.
Clip via Smashing Pumpkins
There is an overwhelming challenge inherent in making a feel-good, alt-pop anthem about suicide — but Billy Corgan made it look easy.
The twinkling opening riff, the abandon of the rhythm guitar, the delirium of the opening line, the searing heat of the chorus... 'Today' is simply one of the best songs ever written, defining an album that defined a band that defined a moment in time.