Fire and Water Records: No Skips: SIAMESE DREAM

Kicking off a brand new subset of Fire and Water Records, the brothers Ryan and Neil Daly review The Smashing Pumpkins' 1993 sophomore hit SIAMESE DREAM. What's the difference between a perfect album and a "no skip" album? Find out as the Dalys take you through all thirteen songs of this landmark album in alternative rock.

Track list

  1. "Cherub Rock"
  2. "Quiet"
  3. "Today"
  4. "Hummer"
  5. "Rocket"
  6. "Disarm
  7. "Soma"
  8. "Geek U.S.A."
  9. "Mayonaise"
  10. "Spaceboy"
  11. "Silverfuck"
  12. "Sweet Sweet"
  13. "Luna"
  14. * "Hello Kitty Kat" (album outtake, originally released as b-side to "Today")

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5 responses to “Fire and Water Records: No Skips: SIAMESE DREAM

  1. Some no skip albums that are evergreen in my collection: The Pixies’ Doolittle and The Violent Femmes’ 1983 eponymous album. For Canadian content: The Rheostatics’ Melville.

    To tell you the truth, I’m not a big skipper regardless. Maybe being brought up on vinyl (dad voice: Don’t touch that), then going through puberty on cassettes (it’s complicated) gave me that habit, who knows?

  2. I was working overnight security in 1993, and therefore had a lot of free time to listen to the radio during a period that was a desirable proposition. The DJ was talking up the Smashing Pumpkins as a band to watch before playing “Today” for probably my first listen. To be honest, I wasn’t too impressed after that bit of hype, and I’m not sure that I had any other exposure to compare it to. “Today” got to be a big hit, and I caught the cool music video at some point. Singles got to breathe back then, so “Disarm” didn’t follow until ’94. That one hit me hard and immediately, presumably making me reconsider their previous releases. I can’t speak to the exact timeline, but I eventually listened to the lyrics to “Today” intently enough to realize that it had smuggled suicide into what outwardly seemed to be one of the poppier hits of my period listening. It was the “pink ribbon scars” that finally clued me in. I’m not sure if it was mainstream radio reaching back for more material, or my being recommended a new alternative radio station called “The Rocket,” but by the time “Bullet with Butterfly Wings” exploded, I was getting familiar with “I Am One,” “Siva,” “Cherub Rock,” and “Rocket”. I definitely liked the band, but didn’t figure that I’d ever really want to hear Billy Corgan’s nasally, whiny delivery for an entire album. Specifically, for Xmas ’94 I’d bought myself Siamese Dream and my brother Oingo Boingo’s Dead Man’s Party, thought better of it, and switched. For some reason, that’s the one Christmas my half-brother also got me a new CD, Queensrÿche’s Promised Land. I wonder if I was visibly disappointed that he had pulled a Homer and bought me a bowling ball with his name on it? Admittedly, I figured that I’d at least get a chance to dub a copy of Siamese Dream, but it was not to be, as little bro was living with his mother and it never got a play at my father’s house. In fact, I forgot the Queensrÿche album, and it disappeared. Still have the Oingo Boingo CD, though. Anyway, one of the last times I saw my brother, I harvested his MP3 collection, and he’d torrented much of the Pumpkins discography, so I may be listening to Siamese Dream in full for the first time. Better late than never?

    I like “Cherub Rock” as much as the next guy. Radio Friendly Unit Shifter. It is what it mocks.

    “Quiet” reminded me that I’ve likely heard the album in parts, at minimum. One of my customers at the comic shop had good taste in music, and was happy to share. In fact, it’s funny, I went to several shops from a chain he eventually worked at yesterday. He was good at it, and I’d like to think I set an example. Anyway, none of those shops were as good as they were when he worked at them, and the idiosyncratic music that announced his presence had been replaced by more conventional stuff. Anyway, he’d loaned me his Pumpkins collection at a time when neither I nor Mac (the only person I knew who had a PC to rip music) had the resources to keep it all. So I listened to the material, and picked what to copy and mix onto a burn CD. There was no ubiquity of lyrics back then, and Billy Corgan specifically fought to keep his off the internet. If I’d had access, those lyrics might have helped “Quiet” make the cut, but as it was, it got skipped in the biggest way.

    I’ve yet to tire of “Today,” which says a lot. Soundgarden made my preferred suicide anthems, but this is certainly up there.

    “Hummer” got skipped pretty quick. It sounds a bit better than “Quiet,” but lyrically it’s much the lesser. Just sort of that generic mellow alt-rock vibe of the time, differentiated from a Pearl Jam album cut by Corgan’s favoring the Fleetwood Mac end of the ’70s spectrum over Neil Young.

    Does anyone dislike “Rocket”? Classic video, generational anthem, soaring finale. I’ve heard it so many times that it’s background noise now, but it’s objectively great.

    As mentioned, “Disarm” was my turning point. Surely part of the reason I bought and ultimately gifted the album to my half-brother was because this song reminded me so much of us, but especially him. I’m more the old-young abandoned, and he’s the one with a pyre concealed by charm. I’d have to at least consider this one for my personal soundtrack, but like our relationship, it’s an ever more distant past rather than a relevant present. Part of why my love for ’90s alternative is eternal is because it helped me take inventory and investigate my traumas, but I’m in no way a young adult anymore. Ultimately, the song is a yellowing snapshot of ever fuzzier memories.

    “Soma” is another one that got local radio play, despite being an album cut. I’ve never been able to discern most of the lyrics without a sheet in front of me, but the meaning comes across. The arrangement is probably the most interesting and timeless on the album. Swell vibe. Dig it a lot.

    I don’t especially like “Geek U.S.A.” It’s the one with the clowns in the video. Noisy. Is it about Courtney Love?

    Yeah, that’s pretty much it for me. I started drafting this comment earlier today, put on the album, and typed through “Mayonaise”. I went back to read over the draft, and that lasted just into “Spaceboy”. I went to read the lyrics through “Silverfuck,” and don’t feel like I missed anything. At this point, I’m just vamping until “Sweet Sweet” comes on. All this stuff was disposable when Mac was burning those discs for me, and remain so. I think it was ultimately 2-3 discs, and to my surprise, I grew to appreciate Corgan more. I’d preferred other acts at the time, but that selection of tunes elevated the Pumpkins in my esteem. I still think they traffic in bloat, and haven’t bought an album since Zeitgeist, but they’re a favorite act now.

    Crap, “Silverfuck” is still going. Let me review again. Every time Corgan references sin, I think of Nine Inch Nails, one of the few acts I’ve seen twice, and admittedly dearer to me than Pumpkins. Oh good, “Luna” finally. Nope. Done with this album. Got another minute until I can play “Hello Kitty Kat”. Guess I’ll fill in my username and email. Let me search for Pisces Iscariot lyrics. Enough with the slit wrists and whores, Billy.

  3. Great episode and a great concept, guys.

    I came a little late to the Pumpkins, picking up both Siamese Dream and Pisces Iscariot around the same time (I want to say 1994), so since I’d been pretty ensconced in Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Stone Temple Pilots, et al, they never had the impact on me that they had on others. Still, this is a top-tier album and I really enjoyed your exploration.

    The whole “no skips” concept is a great conversation starter and I certainly thought of albums in my collection that would qualify. “Rumours” is obviously on that list. I’d put at least one Springsteen album on there (Born to Run and maybe Born in the USA, but “Cover Me” tends to be the skip for me on that one). Others that immediately come to mind are “August and Everything After” by Counting Crows, “Dookie” by Green Day, and “The ’59 Sound” by The Gaslight Anthem. I’m sure I could find more.

    But, I also came out of this episode with a couple of questions I hope you might find intriguing.

    First, you probably could do an entire episode just on The Beatles and debating which album has no skips and of those which is the best one.

    Second, how does an overplayed hit factor into the “no skips” discussion? My prime example for this is U2’s “Achtung Baby”. I consider that album a “no skip” album, but I often skip “Mysterious Ways” because I still hear it on the radio a lot (same can be said for “One”).

    Finally, are there any double albums out there with no skips? I’d say probably not since double albums tend to have a lot of filler, but who knows?

    Anyway, loved the episode and can’t wait for the next one!

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