(This review originally appeared in the August 1993 issue of SPIN)It's difficult work, making a virtue out of vagueness, but for some reason it's work that many of our best current rockers are taking up, despite the catcalls of aesthetic conservatives who insist that rock'n'roll has to actually be "about" something. These stick-in-the-muds have lately been getting all worked up about the likes of My Bloody Valentine, whose songs exist merely to proved the context for a sound which is their whole reason for being. If Smashing Pumpkins' major-label debut makes the kind of splash it deserves to, the Chicago-based band will be the next to throw the meaning-mongers into a snit.Siamese Dream, coproduced by Butch Vig, takes up and expands nicely where 1991's impressive Gish left off; it's got all the feisty, fuzz passion of that record and even more inventiveness.
"Brevity is the soul of wit," Shakespeare's Polonius tells us — and brevity can also be a hallmark of genius. At New York's Carnegie Hall Saturday night, American composer Steve Reich celebrated his 75th birthday with four pieces in less than two hours, including intermission. The compositions, all written since 2007, were individually marvelous (one featured the National's Bryce Dessner and Wilco's Glenn Kotche) and collectively provided a terrific summing up of what Reich is all about. Reich uses elements of so-called world music (his early training was as a drummer at the University of Ghana) and popular forms like rock and jazz to create music that seems to thrive on repetition; many of his pieces are built on what he calls "pulses" which, once established, go in and out of phase with each other and with the instrumentation he uses as a rhythm section.