Sound — 9
Billy Corgan, as the lone original member, along with Jeff Schroeder, who joined the band in 2007, and producer Howard Willing have created a cohesive and affable album that lures the listener in immediately while covering a lot of sonic territory along the way. "Monuments to an Elegy" is by far the shortest Smashing Pumpkins record to date, running just beyond the thirty minute mark.
After the more artistic approach on their previous album "Oceania" the Pumpkins have opted out for a more straight forward approach this time. Driven by Tommy Lee's powerful and sturdy drumming the songs have gained a heavy edge while losing some finesse and flow. Apart from the cymbals, the sound of the drums is a little muddy at times and perhaps a bit over compressed. The bass lines, played by Billy, are simple but work well with the songs and are reminiscent of the early Pumpkins records. The record opens with "Tiberius," a great choice for an opener, which is in 9/8 time, giving the impression that the song is spinning in a never ending cycle. The guitar work is very impressive. While there are no traditional guitar solos on this record, the short guitar licks tastefully emphasize parts of the songs which adds to the emotional quality of the arrangements. The vocal melodies are one of the highlights on the album, especially on "Drum + Fife," the chorus of "Anaise," and the verses of "Monuments" and "Dorian." The vocals are pretty closed and they could do with a little less compression and a little more delay so that they could sound wider and sit better in the mix. Corgan did a great job with the synths on this record, intertwining them with the guitars and bass providing a full and rich sound while still giving the songs room to breathe.
Lyrics — 7
The lyrics are the weakest link on "Monuments to an Elegy," if compared to "Adore" lyrically this album doesn't live up to Billy's potential. This is not to say that the lyrics are horrible but compared to what we've seen on previous Pumpkins albums the lyrics here are, at times, too repetitive. Good examples of this would be "Being Beige," "One and All," "Run2Me" and "Dorian." However, this album has its good lyrical moments. On "Tiberius" Billy sings: "I've seen the world upon a thousand dreams. Your eyes are one that can't see what it means, but still I love you, like everything, it goes and goes..."
Overall Impression — 9
Make no mistake, this is a great record. For the most part it's nicely mixed, mastered and produced. There are no fillers and no unnecessary orchestral arrangements. The songs go well together and you don't get the impression that something is missing or doesn't belong on the record. One thing "Monuments to an Elegy" proves is that Billy Corgan, at the core, can still write some great songs. Is this the best Smashing Pumpkins album? Probably not but I think that people who aren't songwriters don't realize that it isn't easy to write a group of songs that go well together and complement each other.