As a fan of both H.P. Lovecraft and Throbbing Gristle, I'm fairly well accustomed to disassociating art from the shitheads who created it, which is handy given Billy Corgan's unfortunate transformation into the tinfoil-hatted Infowars Uncle Fester; because I was once quite partial to a spot of Smashing Pumpkins, or at least to this album. The Pumpkins seem to have benefited from the rush to find something else which sounded a bit like Nirvana back in the early nineties or thereabouts. They didn't particularly sound like Nirvana, beyond a certain emotional thrust and a propensity for huge riffs played on fuzz guitar, but never mind; besides which, I personally always thought they were better.
The secret of their success, or the success of Siamese Dream, is that at heart it's actually just corny old country rock such as dominated the seventies and tended to be sold beneath an airbrushed logo of letters made out of swooshy marshmallow. It's shaved off its handlebar moustache, swapped the flares for leather trousers, and the lyrics are about a million times better, but it's the same thing we recall from Boston, REO Speedwagon, all those I'll Be a Kentucky Fool for Your Lovin' bands. The difference is mostly in a production which has given everything the warm, comforting glow of a codeine haze, and most of that seems to come from the guitar fuzzed to a point approaching soup.
I once mentioned my love of this album to my friend Paul, who said that he didn't know anything about the Smashing Pumpkins except that he only ever saw the name on T-shirts worn by self-harming teenage girls with too much make-up. I can see what the appeal was. There's a strength to the music, a muscular quality but its buried fairly deep beneath layers of all sorts of wounded stuff and with not much posturing involved - like a much more powerful Smiths without the suggestion of whining. I suppose then, this is probably where all those fucking awful emo bands came from, giving us another reason to shun the Corgan, but as is often the case when you go back to the source, this was where someone got the formula exactly right. It's a tender - and almost perfect - album, contrasting vulnerability with an underlying strength, and listening to it feels like recovering from something horrible. It's overwrought, but then that's what it felt like being a teenager, so far as I recall.
...and extra points for writing a song about preferring outer space to having to spend another moment on the same planet as Everett True.