Siamese Dream: The Kickstart to My Love Affair
It wasn’t even my CD to begin with. Siamese Dream belonged to my brother, but he had decided that the Smashing Pumpkins were not the kind of music he was interested in. The album was released in 1993, making me 11 at the time. I distinctly remember the music video for “Today”, with its over-saturated colors, nonsensical premise featuring lead singer and guitarist Billy Corgan driving around in an ice cream truck, and a dress-clad guitarist, James Iha, being strangely intriguing. I couldn’t ignore this music video when it came on because I was just so confused by it as a pre-teen.
Cut to some years later, and the CD was still in my brother’s room, a forgotten relic that had been on his desk for a long time without many spins in his CD Walkman. Eventually, I just took it, and I don’t even think he noticed. It was then, about 3–4 years later, that I was formally introduced to what would be my most beloved childhood band and their mixed bag of music.
I didn’t gain an appreciation and understanding of that album until I swiped it from my brother when I was a little older. Moving from middle school to high school gave me a little more insight into life, or as much insight as a 15-year-old can have. Everyone remembers that “Today” was the song that shot the Smashing Pumpkins into the spotlight. By the time I started listening to Siamese Dream, they were already extremely popular. Making appearances on late night shows, touring the world, releasing more music videos and albums, and being featured on magazine covers was now commonplace.
Siamese Dream, the second album in the Smashing Pumpkins discography, is a mix of early 90s alternative rock, melancholy pieces, and some psychedelic 70s inspired tunes. “Today” and “Disarm” were the mainstream tracks that the public at large latched onto, and these two songs made the Pumpkins a household pop culture name. Although the album is full of choice songs that didn’t get airtime, “Hummer” and “Spaceboy” were two of my favorites.
Don’t get me wrong, “Today” was still a fun ride of a song, even though it was over-played on the radio, but “Disarm”, out of the two mainstream hits, really caught my attention. The orchestral arrangement in the song is mesmerizing, with Corgan’s acoustic guitar strumming along gracefully. I’m a sucker for rock songs that incorporate classical instruments. The song itself is about abortion, something that I didn’t fully grasp until I was in my early high school years. This fact about the song isn’t what I latched onto, though; it was the lyrics. When Corgan sings, “I used to be a little boy, so old in my shoes,” it resonated deeply with me because I was at a point in my life when I was starting to grow up and away from childhood. It really stuck with me as an early teen.
“Hummer” takes on a psychedelic feel, combined with melodic and peaceful breaks in between forceful guitar riffs. The song is over six minutes long, and showcased something that the Pumpkins became known for: long guitar solos. Some might find this feature unnecessary since it’s clear that Corgan is an aficionado with both the electric and acoustic guitar, but any Pumpkins fan only sees it as watching a master chef make a five course meal.
The song “Spaceboy” starts with an acoustic guitar, Corgan’s signature high pitched nasally voice (respectfully), and immediately brings in the violins. This song is definitely very moody. There aren’t any long guitar solos, no fast-paced drumming, and it seems quite simplistic in its arrangement. Again, the lyrics were what really caught my attention. Corgan mournfully sings, “Spaceboy they’ll kill me, before I’m dead and gone,” as the violins crescendo in the background. Perhaps he was foreshadowing the media frenzy that was about to surround the band.
When I listen to this album 20 plus years later, I still fall in love with it, as I always have. It’s one of my most faithful lovers, my friend who holds all my teenage secrets, my longing for year’s past. Even though Siamese Dream wasn’t mine to begin with, I claimed it as mine, and have cherished it for all these years, long guitar solos and all.