Monuments to an Elegy (Album Review)
By Rob Watts
If you’re into The Smashing Pumpkins, then there’s no better time to be a fan, as a plethora of exciting projects have been flying out of Billy Corgan’s camp as of late. Whether it’s the deluxe edition re-issue campaign of previous classic albums (see Adore re-issue), Corgan’s eyebrow raising one-off releases such as AEGEA and Siddhartha or simply a good old fashion studio album of new Pumpkins material.
On the band’s tenth studio album, Monuments to an Elegy, Corgan and company tread new ground once again proving that chances are not afraid to be taken. Much like their previous near-masterpiece Oceania, Corgan is determined to move forth, leaving the likes of Siamese Dream and Melon Collie and the Infinite Sadness as far in the past as possible. With Billy Corgan leading the charge as the last remaining original Pumpkin, he handles guitar, keyboards and bass, filling the slot of the recently dismissed bassist Nicole Fiorentino. The ever-so-loyal lead guitarist Jeff Schroeder remains, but the big news coming out of Pumpkinland was that Motley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee would be handling skins on all nine tracks, filling the vacant slot left behind by Mike Byrne.
Maybe not quite as moving as Oceania, Monuments to an Elegy has many high-points, mainly the simple fact, that with most Pumpkins albums as of recent, Corgan has the uncanny knack to write songs that make you say “huh…really? You actually recorded that?” But after a few listens, it all makes sense. Such tracks like “Being Beige”, “Anaise” and “Drum + Fife” fall in that category.
Now and then, the drums sound a bit intrusive, yet, Lee’s drumming sounds more controlled and less erratic, as is expected on many Crüe songs. Production-wise, it’s also not as slick as Oceania, but more muddy in places. This, however, is not a criticism. Your personal preference will be the judge. Of course this album, for reasons only known to Corgan, was recorded at breakneck speed, so a few songs sound more like polished up demos as opposed to fully realized songs, such as “One and All (We Are)” and “Tiberius.”
With all that said, I give highly favorable props to the new effort. As mentioned before, The Pumpkins have never been afraid to take chances, and songs such as “Anaise”, “Monuments” and “Dorian” are a testament to that fact.