How the Smashing Pumpkins Channeled Internal Turmoil Into Their ‘Siamese Dream’ Breakthrough
If you ever find yourself searching for an example of how friction and emotional turmoil can lead to musical brilliance, look no further than the Smashing Pumpkins' 1993 breakthrough sophomore album Siamese Dream.
Recorded with Butch Vig during four months in Georgia and $250,000 over-budget, the Pumpkins' major label debut nearly ripped the band apart. James Iha and D'Arcy Wretzky were in the midst of a painful breakup, drummer Jimmy Chamberlin's drug addiction had become so bad that it prompted the decision to record far from his dealers and Billy Corgan (already battling severe depression) wound up playing nearly all of the guitar and bass (reportedly at Vig's prompting), creating even more resentment.
But Siamese Dream was a massive success right out of the gate, debuting at No. 10 on the Billboard 200 on the strength of the revelatory single "Today" and immediately secured Smashing Pumpkins' place atop the modern rock world.
Completely counter to the aesthetics and structure of grunge, Siamese Dream is aggressively ornate. Layered with walls of crashing sound, laced with soaring guitar solos and more prog than punk, it's both triumphant ("Cherub Rock," "Rocket") and beautifully crafted ("Disarm," "Soma").
It isn't only the most essential album in the Smashing Pumpkins catalog, it's easily one of the top five most important albums of the '90s.