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Siamese Dream: It Was Twenty Years Ago Saturday

By Tankboy in Arts & Entertainment on Jul 28, 2013 7:00PM


When Siamese Dream was released, there was arguably no other more anticipated release--in the civilized world. Me? I was holed up in a college town in central Illinois. While the Pumpkins were from my home town, news that their sophomore release was actually, finally, out traveled slowly. But once the album landed in our sleepy town, we all knew we had a new anthem to take up the fading hum of Nirvana's Nevermind. Yes, at one point The Smashing Pumpkins were that important to all of us.

In retrospect, it's easy to see this album as the high point of the band's career, and as the dividing line that was followed by the group's slow decline. By many accounts the actual recording was a two-man show—Jimmy Chamberlin's drumming and Billy Corgan's everything else—but it is still undeniably a group album, in the sense that you can feel the other members' (bassist D'arcy and guitarist James Iha) influence. That influence would not hold through to their next album, which worked out for both better and for worse. But let's wait until the 20th anniversary of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness for that discussion.

Some context: Nirvana and the Pacific Northwest may have began the "alternative" explosion, but I think much credit is due to Corgan for taking that formula--mixing '70s arena rock and punk rock emotion--and upping the ante by injecting an even greater sense of grandiosity into the music.

In some ways, I think Siamese Dream marked the end of the "Alternative Era" since it is largely responsible for label heads and radio programmers glomming onto a portion of the sound even they found accessible. Then again, what else was going to happen when an angry upstart releases an overwhelmingly great album that manages to be catchy and challenges listeners all at the same time?

It's been twenty fucking years and the album still sounds fresh and vital and exciting and feels like a nigh genius statement that mixed the complicated catchiness of Kansas with the dynamics of the Pixies and the sheer anger and volume of any number of punk rock or metal bands. The fact that you could group all of that together without it being a huge mess speaks volumes and helps define just what makes Siamese Dream still great.

Here's the band performing on "Saturday Night Live" in 1993: