Written Before Review
For my next classic, I will go back to the 90s for a classic alternative rock record. The Smashing Pumpkins are a band that I grew up listening to but I rarely listen to their albums. Siamese Dream seems like the typical pick but it is indeed a classic. I can’t wait any longer so without further ado, let’s get into it.
This album was produced by the legendary Butch Big (alongside Billy Corgan). Butch Vig in my opinion is one of the best producers of all time and you can see from his album credits. Alongside the Pumpkins, he produced Nirvana, L7, Sonic Youth, Green Day, and the Foo Fighters. As you can see, he is good with drum sounds, guitar sounds, and overall coordination of organized noise. The best part of this album is mainly how immaculately produced this album is. From the distorted riffs on the first two tracks, the incredible dynamics on songs like "Silverfuck" and “Soma”, and the beautiful balladry on “Disarm”. This album is a masterclass in 90s production and I will stand by that claim.
Speaking of the guitars, I love a lot of the riffs on this album. The riffs on “Quiet” and “Geek USA” have some sort of metal quality to them but it’s not metal at all, it just goes that hard. The riffs for “Today” and “Cherub Rock” are beautiful and dreamy but also distorted and heavy. The way those tones are used too are amazing. Corgan and Iha know when a chorus tone is needed and when a heavy distortion is needed. The entire album is a great guide to tones and riffs. It’s not like stoner metal or anything where its devotion is riffs, but Corgan takes these ideas and carries them into something stronger and more cohesive.
A lot of Smashing Pumpkins’ influences come from different places of classic rock, so they brought a classic aesthetic to their alternative rock sound. A lot of the fuzzy tones and heavy riffs on some of the tracks sound like a mix of Black Sabbath and Big Black. The groovier side of this record (especially on the drums and bass) reminds me of bands like Janes Addiction. Billy Corgan’s vocal delivery has this whispery and somewhat sensual vibe to it that reminds me of Marc Bolan of T Rex fame. Songs like “Spaceboy”, “Rocket” and “Silverfuck” give me a prog-rock feel that reminds me of bands like Pink Floyd and Rush. The solos on this album are noisy, wailing yet tasty and they sound like something out of a Zeppelin record or a Hendrix record, but a lot of people would compare Smashing Pumpkins’ sound to My Bloody Valentine, and rightfully so. This album takes a heavy amount of Shoegaze influence. Hell, the song “Rocket” could’ve been Corgan’stake on a track from Loveless. Do I think they use their influences in a good way? Absolutely. Those combinations of sounds range from noise rock, metal, psychedelic rock, alt-rock, and prog, and what they do with it is create a sound that is singular to The Smashing Pumpkins.
Speaking of blending styles, let’s go into more detail with that. Like I mentioned, “Quiet”, “Spaceboy” and “Silverfuck” are all heavy tracks with an emphasis on distortion. “Rocket” and “Mayonaise” are shoegaze tracks and “Disarm” is a total detour from the album is it’s an acoustic ballad with strings and nostalgic lyrics. When it’s all said and done, The Smashing Pumpkins are an alternative rock band, but god damn they are a band with so much taste and style that they defy a genre that has so many different styles.
Sometimes Billy Corgan might be a questionable lyricist, but as a songwriter, he is above and beyond. He knows how to structure a song perfectly and the topics he discusses work. The song “Quiet” is a song about the frustration Corgan has with his family. “Today” and “Cherub Rock” are perfect examples of sarcastic rock songs. “Disarm” shows Corgan’s soft spot as he talks about child abuse from the perspective of the parents. “Spaceboy” is about being an outcast and how you can achieve things no matter what situation you’re dealt with and the song “Luna” is a great ballad to end the album. Overall, I think Billy Corgan can write a song. You can think about him lyrically whenever you want but his songwriting chops are amazing.
This album is amazing. I love almost every song and the sound that the Pumpkins bring is like no other. Surely they can be stuck in the middle with bands like Pixies, Nirvana, and MBV but The Smashing Pumpkins can co-aling with the fanbases of almost any alternative rock band, and this album is the pinnacle of that exact thought.