Smashing Pumpkins: Siamese Dream [Deluxe Edition]

Smashing Pumpkins
Siamese Dream
(Virgin Records)

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I’ll come out and say it: Smashing Pumpkins’ Siamese Dream was THE rock album of the 90’s, and, looking back, it’s easy to see how much it stuck out amongst the tiresome grunge rock and Nirvana clones of the time.

There weren’t many groups in that mainstream arena that had the same knack for beautiful and densely layered beds of buzz-saw guitars and dreamy, wispy vocals. The band had, at this point, perfected the loud-soft dynamic more than any other I can remember; easily melting your face or lulling you to sleep in a psychedelic shimmer; on more than one occasion within the same song (“Soma” and “Hummer” especially). It goes without saying that the performances are some of their best – Billy Corgan’s guitar wizardry (and inventive, textured tones) and Jimmy Chamberlin’s drumming in particular were unparalleled among their peers.

A few songs became alt-rock radio mainstays, but even if “Today” was overplayed, “Cherub Rock,” “Mayonaise,” and “Rocket” have lost none of their glory, and “Disarm” is still one of their most lovely and simple ballads.

I could rail off on the merits of every song on here, but there’d be too many words. It’s a classic. Period.

While I’m not so much a fan of the “re-imagined” artwork, this reissue is lavishly presented in a two-piece box with individual postcards of the album’s original collage artwork and full booklet with track-by-track commentary from Corgan. The bonus disc of rarities has alternate or rough early versions of album tracks (including a heavier run through “Today” that pre-dates the now-signature guitar hook), unreleased songs, and b-sides, including a six-minute version of “Siamese Dream” that is a bit more straightforward, though less trippy than its ultra-rare three-minute B-side version. The pretty, alternate mix of “Disarm” strips the song down to vocals, strings and timpani, and there’s a very worthwhile instrumental mix of “Soma” that reveals so much texture in its symphonic, echoey guitar arrangements.

The real gold in the package is the bonus DVD though, containing a nearly two-hour concert from 1993. Corgan is in a particularly smiley mood, and the silly stage banter between himself, the crowd, and guitarist James Iha is priceless. He gets by on charm even if his voice is a bit off for the first part of the show.

It’s a blistering performance capturing the band at their early-90s peak; the icing on the cake in a perfect little time capsule of the band during that era. It doesn’t get better than this.

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About John Mordecai

John Mordecai is a musician and writer from New Haven, Conn. He was the bassist for Brooklyn-based ERAAS (formerly APSE), and also plays (sometimes) in New England-based Shark and Brooklyn's The Tyler Trudeau Attempt. He also maintains a blog (sometimes) at http://selfsensored.wordpress.com/
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