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Music

Every songs on the Smashing Pumpkins’ masterpiece ‘Siamese Dream’ ranked from worst to best

When I first caught on to the Smashing Pumpkins’ second album Siamese Dream, the record somehow seemed familiar. I later learned that my sister, 12 years my senior, would push me around in my pram as a child whilst she listened to the record. I wasn’t even a year old when the album was released, though Sarah was 13 and the perfect age to get her teeth into one of the best rock albums of the 1990s. As such, the record holds a truly special place in my heart.

Siamese Dream was the follow-up to the Pumpkins’ debut album Gish, which was released in 1991. Gish flew on the tails of Nirvana’s Nevermind, and the Smashing Pumpkins were dubbed the ‘next Nirvana’. As such, frontman Billy Corgan felt immense pressure for his band’s sophomore effort to be a great success.

The album was written and recorded during a difficult time for the band. The pressure and expectation surrounding the group led to Corgan suffering from writer’s block and depression. Meanwhile, drummer Jimmy Chamberlin was in the throes of a severe addiction to heroin, and bassist D’arcy Wretzky and guitarist James Iha had recently ended their relationship.

Butch Vig produced the album and worked tirelessly with Corgan, often 12 hours a day, six days a week, for nearly four months. Corgan, who was, without doubt, the true talent behind the Smashing Pumpkins sound, would often overdub the other members’ takes, though primarily, this was because he was going after musical perfection, and he could play them better than anyone else – and in fewer attempts.

Despite the tensions within the band and the fact that the album ran well over budget and time frame, it was released to critical acclaim as one of the best albums of the decade. It was also a commercial success, eventually reaching 4x platinum certification.

Siamese Dream is a rock music lover’s fantasy, featuring some of the best guitar work ever laid down on tape. With richly layered guitars, lyrics concerning the mental disparity of living in ’90s America and a uniquely dynamic sound, it exemplified everything great about rock music. Today, on the anniversary of the album’s release, we’re ranking the Siamese Dream tracks from ‘worst’ to best. Here we go.

Siamese Dream songs ranked from worst to best:

13. ‘Disarm’

It would be hard to argue that Billy Corgan does not have a vocal style that occasionally borders on the irritating. 

There aren’t too many parts of Siamese Dream where this is evident, but one such instance is in ‘Disarm’, a primarily acoustic guitar-led track lamenting the loss of childhood. “I used to beeeeeeeee a little boy” is particularly grating on the ears.

12. ‘Sweet Sweet’

A quick yet beautiful track that is ultimately only so far down this list because of its short one-minute, 38-second length. “They all want you to change” comes in again and again from Corgan, who refuses to do so (change, that is), desperate to remain himself.

The song contains a unique guitar tone with a generous amount of chorus, found no doubt by Corgan’s scrutinous twiddling of knobs. A sweet piece in its own right.

11. ‘Silverfuck’

The first track on this list exemplifies Smashing Pumpkins’ expert use of the ‘loud-quiet-loud’ dynamic that would dominate much of 1990s alternative rock. A track that twists and turns through its nearly nine-minute runtime. 

The track goes in heavy from the off, led by Jimmy Chamberlin’s precise rolling drumming. For the large midsection, we drift off as the dynamics of the song slow, almost to a stop, before coming back to hit us where it hurts.

10. ‘Rocket’

Mid-table territory, ‘Rocket’ is a thoroughly good tune employing the classic Pumpkins sound, but not more so, especially considering the bangers found elsewhere on the record.

Thick, super-fuzzy guitars lead the track and provide the base for Corgan to get going with his signature lead guitar sound. He achieves this tone by placing a slightly activated phaser to raise the lead parts above everything else.

9. ‘Luna’

The album’s closing track. The ring out of the first chord, combined with the bent lead note, is fervently intoxicating; it gets its hooks into you somehow, just so full and deep. The lead guitar tone is almost sitar-like.

One of the album’s love songs finds Corgan simply repeating, “I’m in love with you”. It really is a beautiful song, showing the Pumpkins’ softer side, which is raised up to the heavens with a gorgeous string arrangement.

8. ‘Geek U.S.A.’

A squealing, single note lead part plays over the top of a rocking rhythm that just bangs. There are some serious riffs going on here, and Chamberlin’s being hired as a jazz drummer only told to hit the pans as hard as possible is evident.

Again, the Pumpkins drag us into a trippy middle section that slows with delicious clean tones before nailing in some hard distortion. Corgan effortlessly rips into not one but two of the best guitar solos on the album, cementing his place as one of the best guitarists of the 1990s. An absolutely slapping breakdown comes at the track’s end.

7. ‘Spaceboy’

Arguably the most emotive-sounding track on the album. ‘Spaceboy’ opens with a beautifully constructed chord sequence on an acoustic guitar, lending weight to Corgan’s lyrics. Along with the chorus comes another sensitive string section.

Corgan heartbreakingly wrote the song about his younger brother, Jesse, who suffered from cerebral palsy and Tourette’s syndrome. Corgan once said of Jesse, “He’s got certain things probably greater than someone else, and he’s lacking in a few things that most of us just take for granted. […] Here’s this kind of kid who comes from some other planet, and he’s had to figure it out for himself as he’s gotten to be a man.”

6. ‘Quiet’

The album’s second song contains one of the best ‘drops’ in rock music. Chamberlin’s fill lets you know something hard is coming, and come it does in the form of a truly banging riff. The guitar tones on this album, particularly on ‘Quiet’, are there to be championed.

Again – could it be any other way? – Corgan is loosened late in the track to go wild on a guitar solo. ‘Quiet’ this song is not, and the band deliver one hell of a rollicking trip through the defining sound of ’90s alternative rock.

5. ‘Soma’

A real slow builder, but as we well know with the Smashing Pumpkins, when things are at their most patient and chill, something will inevitably come to seriously shake things up. ‘Soma’ starts with more of the best clean guitar tones you are likely to hear.

The song is essentially two parts, one clean, one dirty, with yet another genius guitar solo. The band are at their best shifting between loud and quiet, and here they are afforded such an opportunity to showcase their dynamism. The song’s title refers to the escapist drug taken in Aldous Huxley’s 1932 novel Brave New World.

4. ‘Today’

As an iconic opening riff as you are likely to hear during any ’90s record. If there was any track to showcase the signature Pumpkins’ sound, ‘Today’ could be it, with heavy fuzz aplenty. Lyrically, ‘Today’ is about as ubiquitously Pumpkins as you can get.

Corgan wrote the song on a day on which he was having suicidal thoughts, even though the song’s mood is somewhat cheery, especially the line, “Today is the greatest day I’ve ever known”, though evidently, there is some apparent irony at play here.

3. ‘Cherub Rock’

One of the band’s biggest tunes and the album’s opener. And what a way to open their best album. ‘Cherub Rock’, the lead single from the record, is, arguably, the Smashing Pumpkins’ best-known tune after Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness’s ‘1979’.

Again and again, Corgan just hits us with guitar solo after guitar solo and here comes another belter. It’s said that Corgan achieved the effect of the solo by recording it on two separate tapes, running them back again into a new tape with one played at a fractionally faster speed to elevate it.

2. ‘Mayonaise’

Initially, Billy Corgan said that the title ‘Mayonaise’ was inspired by him merely looking in his fridge one day, though he later admitted it stands for the phonetics of ‘My Own Eyes’. The track starts quietly but then goes full-on dirty and loud and never lets up.

Lyrically, the song represents the mood of ennui found in the disaffected MTV-era youth of the 1990s. “Cool enough to not quite see it”, Corgan sings, before the lament to boredom, “When your life is so, so dreary”. This sentiment, though, is probably best summed up in the bridge line, “Can anybody hear me? I just want to be me”. 

1. ‘Hummer’

Of course, there are cases to be made for many of Siamese Dream’s excellent tracks to be considered the best. Yet, there is something about ‘Hummer’ that just ‘does it’. We’ve got everything you want from a Pumpkins’ track in this song: loud-quiet-loud, wicked lead guitar tones, and a tight-as-hell rhythm section.

As with ‘Mayonaise’, we get all the hilarious lexicon of the ’90s with the lines, “Life’s a bummer when you’re a hummer. Life’s a drag.” The by now familiar trope of a quietened middle section before going back in heavy is turned on its head. Corgan plays the big guitar solo before going quiet, giving that delicious calmness a bit more weight.