Siamese Dream

I agree: childhood memories; wide blue skies, stark white clouds, best friends’ backyards, vast green forests, and a sprinkle of angst for flavor. See, the angst’s easy to hate because we all like to pretend that, as adults, we’re above such trivial self-pity and malaise, but frankly that’s bullshit. Deep down, we all wish we had that innocence back, that sense of wonder and newness that even the worst memories of adolescence can’t wipe away. We all know that’s not gonna happen, but we wish anyways – and we know full well that angst, that teenage pain, would be there too. Siamese Dream is, at its core, an album about that melodrama and depression, and it makes up for it by being very, very pretty. It’s a marriage of the hazy, rush-of-blood guitar groan that My Bloody Valentine practically invented on Loveless, and the bombastic, melodic heavy metal and hair metal that made up the (pretty awful) end of the 80’s. Add to that some of grunge’s attitude, dream pop’s ethereal, warm glow, and progressive rock’s extended songform and pretension, and you’ve got Siamese Dream. Corgan and the band were famously depressed through the making of the album, most evident in the lyrics – “I wanted more / Than life could ever grant me,” “Pink ribbon scars / That never forget / I tried so hard / To cleanse these regrets,” “Pick your pockets full of sorrow / And run away with me tomorrow,” “Happiness will make you wonder / Will I feel OK?” The list goes on. Most of the lyrics are thankfully buried under the guitars. (“Thankfully” because some of them are really awful.) And my, what guitars! If there were any more overdubs I think I might lose my hearing. The studio perfectionism adventure Billy Corgan crusaded is legendary, overdubbing every guitar and bass part with his own playing, and I suspect that he had any talent on the drums he’d have done those too. I’d be remiss to neglect the tones here too, which range from brutally kickass to flat-out gorgeous. My favorite song here, “Today,” has both; the pretty little melody at the beginning and woven into the rest of the song at some points, and the wall of crunching noise that breaks open for the verses. This album’s got dynamics –  I like that. Not necessarily just the soft-loud thing, either: the album’s emotional range, while narrow, shifts from one point to another often enough to never wallow in its potentially crippling gloom. “Hummer” has the added gimmick of having its noise break into airy, sun-kissed dream pop near the end of its runtime. And “Luna” is perfect, an unpretentious, gleaming statement of unconditional love. I vaguely remember it being played at a wedding. Highlights.

One last thing: I actually haven’t been familiar with this record for long; only something like a year, and I didn’t even like most of it until recently. But listening and relistening, I’ve come to terms with what I like about it, what I don’t, and what I really don’t, not necessarily in that order. Sure, some of the lyrics are embarrassing. Sure, some of the songs are needlessly long. Sure, Billy Corgan’s whine can get on my nerves if I’m not in the mood for it. But in all honesty the album’s one of a kind, even if it doesn’t seem like it from the outside. Rarely does angst sound so sunny or resplendent; easy music to either wallow in sadness to or to lift yourself out of the same pit. But really, it’s easier to be sad than happy, so try to live a little anyways. Fuck, the sun doesn’t seem to shine in the winter – savor it!

A-

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