Few albums had an impact on me like Siamese Dream. At the time, I don’t even think I understood all of what was going on musically at the time, but as I listen back now, it’s so incredible to pick apart all of the sounds, and even the musical patterns that are evident on this album.
At the time, I hadn’t heard anything like this record. I was listening to Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Stone Temple Pilots, and this wasn’t like any of those, this was something on an entirely different level. If I recall correctly, I bought this album after hearing Today on MTV. Or maybe it was when Disarm came out as a single—both are great tracks, but are just the shot to the chaser that is the entire album.
Billy Corgan was quoted saying he wanted the album to have sonic depth, but without necessarily having to rely on delays and reverbs to achieve that sounds as traditionally is done; he wanted to do it with tonalities—and he nailed it. The guitars are fuzzed to 11, and the drums are just monstrous. The way the bass and kick line up on tracks make the bass feel like a different instrument entirely.
I used to listen to the first six tracks on repeat. Cherub Rock all the way through to Disarm was the perfect first half of an album if there ever was one. It wasn’t until I came back to this album in 2018 or so that I started to explore the second half, in particular Geek USA, the eighth track and now my favorite on the album. Soma to Geek USA to Mayonnaise are a jab-jab-hook combo that continues to hit to this day. The slow build, clean guitar shoe gaze riff of Soma creates a landscape that on it’s own would be a great track, but half way through we meet a wall of fuzz that takes it to another level. Corgan pulls this trick a few times throughout the album, and if you ask me, each time is worth it.
Butch Vig was the producer on this album, and arguably the hottest producer at the time coming off of Nirvana’s Nevermind in 1991. The Pumpkins had worked with Vig before on their previous album Gish, which was an unexpected success. I’m convinced it was his talents that helped shape the fuzz heavy sound into a sonic landscape. Generally speaking with that much fuzz, you have very little clarity of individual notes, but Vig is able to balance all of that so well. Geek USA is a great example of this. Listen to how that track goes all over the sonic sphere from fuzz to clean, it’s magical.
This album will always be one of my favorites. It came out at a time when my mind was in a formative place, where I was discovering music on my own and was so excited to find new sounds that I had never heard before. I still believe it holds up today.