As we continue our journey back to the 1990s, and the wonderful music it brought, a link to the 1st post in this series. The criteria, the honorable mentions, and #10 and #9.
To quote the seminal artist Shannon…..Let the Music Play….
8: Smashing Pumpkins – Siamese Dream
The first of a few “know the moment” records for me on this list. Let me explain…
Working in college radio at the time (as well as drumming in my college band Pale Kellys), I had become well aware of the buzz surrounding Smashing Pumpkins very early on. The release of their debut, Gish on tiny Caroline Records, did little to dent the mainstream, barely cracking the Billboard 200 weekly list (at 196…for all of one week). However, college radio SWARMED to it, playing and re-playing “hits” like Siva and Rhinoceros, partly because of the sound, and partly to be ahead of the potential next big thing. The music world buzzed (swarm, now buzz….bee theme?) a bit more, fueled by the success of the “grunge” movement, to ALSO find that elusive thing.
Word started to filter out through publications such as College Music Journal, that the Chicago based group would be working with Butch Vig (again), heading to remote Georgia (the state) and would be releasing the follow up record on Virgin (the record label). For a while, that’s all that was known, save for stories of the number of labels that wanted to be “the one” to get the major label debut. (as it is, Virgin records was a partner of the much smaller Caroline…so they didn’t stray too far). After some time (and much discussed turmoil while recording) the first single was announced, and weeks later, subsequently shipped to college radio. My “know the moment”: I was the music director at the time, and knew what was (pretty much) in every padded envelope that we received on a Monday or Tuesday. When I saw the Virgin Records logo in the upper left hand corner, I knew what I was holding. With the strength of Superman (ok…just go with me on that one) I ripped it open, marveled at the CD single cover art (a toddler in sepia tone) and BEGGED the on-air host to abandon whatever it was he was about to play next. (knowing this guy, I spared the campus of another Rick Astley 3-fer…) “Cherub Rock” started with a very simple snare drum roll….twice…followed by a light guitar, and for the first 6 seconds, I thought “oh no, did they tone it down?”, and by the time the word “down” hit my mind, I had the answer, as the already-trademark fuzz and power of the Iha/Corgan guitar duo came roaring through. At that moment, I knew what (the world) I had been waiting for, was going to be just fine.
Weeks later, Siamese Dream was released to a much broader audience, with much greater success (Billboard top 10) than its predecessor. The carrying thing for the Pumpkins on this record, is very obvious: they do loud boisterous, yet the soft sublime….and most times within the same track. Look no further than the singles released. “Mayonnaise”, “Rocket”, “Today”, all have moments blissfully edging the abyss of silence before roaring with the fury of a million watts. Throughout the entire scope of the record, front to back, the songs layer and unfurl simultaneously, all fueled by the distinctive drum sound, the power guitar chords, and the unmistakable Billy Corgan snarl.
Sadly, this would be the apex for the band, as the next record, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (an overblown grab at greatness that fell quite short) all the way to the most recent Monuments to an Elegy (ugh…akin to Rocky V, let’s just pretend it didn’t happen) have never been at or NEAR the level that Siamese Dream propelled them in the direction of. And that, is a shame, as if the path had continued, we could be looking back at one of the greatest rock bands of the past 30 years. Instead, we at LEAST have this. Thankfully.
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Coming Up NEXT :
We go abroad, across the pond, anticipate the invasion….pick your cliché!