The Smashing Pumpkins
Monuments to an Elegy
Length: 33 minutes
A return to the classic sound of a 90s legend…with a slight adjustment.
I have a rather unfavorable view of the plethora of Alternative Rock bands flooding the airwaves during the transitional 1990s. As these overly angst-ridden artists would eventually lead to the decline and fall of commercial Rock its hard to not remain jaded from that mostly interchangeable and unremarkable product.
But, in the midst of all the mediocrity, there was a small selection of truly brilliant artists that transcended. With 90s radio staples like “Today”, “Bullet with Butterfly Wings”, and “1979” it was hard to ignore Billy Corgan’s THE SMASHING PUMPKINS. Yet, after shining ever so brightly, their overly melancholic vibe would implode and they would vanish along with all those less than stellar acts of that period, forever diminishing the role of Rock music in the world:(
In all fairness, Alternative most likely didn’t “kill” Rock. But the sentiment remains. If it happens on your watch, etc…
Corrigan was that typical tortured Rock star, a blend of soul crushing anger and sadness who used his art as much-needed therapy. Upon re-imagining the PUMPKINS with a new line-up in the 00s his laid-back, stripped down style echoed their late 90s gloom. Releasing this material one track at a time (for free!) over the internet proved to be not much more than an unfulfilling experiment. We all
needed demanded a return of the fire from their ground-breaking ‘Siamese Dream’/’Infinite Sadness’ era.
Now mostly a “solo project with help”, THE SMASHING PUMPKINS’ 2014 release ‘Monuments to an Elegy’ is a triumphant, guitar heavy return to those roots. Full of retro synths, Corgan’s trademark cryptic lyrics, and plenty of lament. But, somewhere buried within, I sense a rising tide of optimism. A celebration born out of two decades of earned wisdom and gained peace. Corgan may have found a way out of the muck…the therapy finally bears fruit(?)
Welcomingly this is a brief, potent collection. Nine tracks at under 33 minutes. Tightly focused on the groove, the riff, the melody. A far cry from those overwrought double CD collections. It ain’t all rainbows and lollipops. But at its peak, ‘Moments to an Elegy’ is exceptional, accessible, and cathartic. A tribute to the undying power of Rock ‘n’ Roll.
- Stand-out opener “Tiberius” invites us into this elegy with a beautiful guitar melody and Corgan’s impassioned plea.
- Continuing on through in the reflective dynamics of “Being Beige” and the quirky electronica of “Anaise!”
- “One and All (We Are)” has a solid groove and chorus…and not much else.
- “Run2Me” acts as a sorta upbeat techno “Today”–promoting a sweet keyboard/vocal harmony driven melody.
- Album highlight, Irish folksy “Drum + Fife” powers on in a potent, stripped down rhythmic declaration with helluva chorus.
- “Monuments” offers up rat in a cage Rock in an engaging 80s electronic dance vibe.
- The lively “Dorian” is not much more than a continuous refrain played over pop techno emptiness.
- We get a real stormer in the fierce “Anti-Hero”–reaffirming that the angst isn’t all excised, yet.
Billy Corgan handles the Vocals, Guitars, Bass, Keys, and Synths. Getting support from Jeff Schroeder on Guitar and MOTLEY CRUE vet Tommy Lee opening it up with his skillful Drums. Billy hasn’t sounded better: heavy(!) power chords, emotionally drenched vocal lament, and plenty of playful electronica. An inviting, open production (Howard Willing) and mix (David Bottrill).
Having already perfected his grunge/alternative hybrid style two decades ago, Corgan has nothing left to prove. Sounding confident, almost at peace with the world and his place within. Dropping much of the bitter rant, in favor of more reflection. Probably the first PUMPKINS’ album I’ve rejoiced in, beginning to end.
Anyone who fondly remembers the early 90s will eat ‘Monuments to an Elegy’ up. Even skeptics of
Angst Alternative Rock should at least sample a couple of tracks. This is the same THE SMASHING PUMPKINS alternative grit, yet in a much more relatable and approachable package. Highly Recommended. It just gets better with each spin…and how many albums can claim that, anymore?