The Pumpkins’ ninth album isn’t really a Pumpkins record at all, since Billy Corgan is the only original member of the band left. No, ‘Monuments To An Elegy’ is essentially a Corgan solo album dressed up as a Smashing Pumpkins record. Even so, this is still the most simple and easy Smashing Pumpkins record since the band reunited in 2005. It seems as though Corgan’s desires for fanciness has been placed elsewhere as this record plods along at a pace that’s not been seen on a Corgan curated project in a while (We haven’t completely escaped his pretentiousness though. A) Look at the title of the album B) This album is set to be a part of their ‘Teargarden By Kaleidyscope’ trilogy AND the first part of a double album…).
The main instrument on this album is in fact the guitar among some of the other bits and pieces that have shown up on their recent album’s to try to make them sound ‘modern’. The opening track ‘Tiberius’ opens with these piano keys before blasting into these guitar riffs; it’s one of the moments on this album where the pre-2000s nostalgia really does blend well with the modern-day Smashing Pumpkins style. The synthetic instrumentation is toned down a whole lot on this record and when it does show up, it does so with a lot more subtlety like the drum machines on the track ‘Being Beige’ which work fantastically. Melodically Corgan seems to have found a sweet spot on this record too with him capturing some of the melancholy from their earlier work; it’s quite astonishing how solid his vocals are after all these years too.
It’s not all great though and there are a whole lot of potholes in this record. For one, a lot of the guitar playing itself doesn’t quite stick, as they’ve traded all of their memorable riffs for just straight up power chords – it works in places but leaves a big hole in their sound. A lot of the time they just feel like a necessary tool for filler rather than something that can portray just as much of the sadness that they do with their vocals. Another big issue is the lyricism on this album; Corgan often comes off as so vague on this record that it’s quite difficult to actually realise what he’s saying. It becomes hard to distinguish whether the love songs are about losing someone you love or the vice versa. But hey, at least we don’t have any of those dull synth-scapes from some of their recent efforts.
For all of you people who haven’t cared too much for 21st Century Smashing Pumpkins may finally have something that will make them pay attention at least for a minute. ‘Monuments To An Elegy’ is a definite return to form for the ‘band’, just don’t go in expecting perfection.