Released: Dec 5, 2014
Genre: Alternative Rock
Label: Martha's Music, BMG
Number Of Tracks: 9
An abbreviated Smashing Pumpkins lineup generate an awkward yet altogether solid compilation of synthesizer-bracketed alternative rock on "Monuments to an Elegy."
Monuments To An ElegyFeatured review by: UG Team, on december 29, 2014 4 of 5 people found this review helpful
Sound: Billy Corgan has for a long time been considered the core of The Smashing Pumpkins, and his recent decision to narrow down the lineup to only himself and guitarist Jeff Schroeder particularly emphasised this point. The band's well-received 2007 comeback "Zeitgeist" first emphasized the mainman's control over the project, and while in some sense The Smashing Pumpkins has reverted into the equivalent of a Corgan solo project, it would be difficult to argue with the end result which we find on the latest installment of the ongoing "Teargarden by Kaleidyscope" concept. Once we're able to look past the miniscule importance of the abbreviated lineup, we're able to delve into an awkward yet altogether solid compilation of synthesizer-bracketed alternative rock on "Monuments to an Elegy."
With Corgan being accredited with the album's vocals, bass guitar, keyboards and synthesizers, and Schroeder manning the bulk of the guitar arrangements, there was still the vacant position of percussionist on the record; The Smashing Pumpkins had little difficulty in recruiting some considerable talent for this task, however, and soon enlisted the assistance of Tommy Lee of Motley Crue fame to round out the studio lineup. Lee's distinctive character behind the skins provides a commendable momentum throughout the record's nine songs, particularly on the high octane "Tiberius" and the radio-friendly attitude of "Being Beige," however it's perhaps this same attribute which plays to one of the effort's downfalls. "Monuments to an Elegy" is over just as soon as it begins, with a running time of just over thirty minutes, and the abrupt conclusion provided by the twisted alternative rock feel of "Anti-Hero" doesn't exactly serve to the album's benefit.
These points set aside, there is still plenty of noteworthy material to be found throughout the bulk of this latest Smashing Pumpkins offering, such as the ferociously melodic "One and All" and the momentum building "Drum + Fife." An unexpected stylistic transition is introduced on "Dorian," which embodies a formidable new wave and almost space rock identity. When sandwiched between the brooding "Monuments" and the bizarre musicianship found on the aforementioned "Anti-Hero" briefly disrupts the album's cohesiveness, but as individual cuts are still worthwhile tracks in their own right. // 6
Lyrics: Billy Corgan has seemingly always been the driving force behind The Smashing Pumpkins, and perhaps his transition into not only the lead vocalist and guitarist but also as the primary musician is appropriate, but it's during such varietal studio offerings as "Monuments to an Elegy" where the frontman is surrounded by a bare performing lineup that Corgan's largely preserved lyrical execution and singing style particularly comes as a necessity. When the album alternates between angst-derived alternative rock, nostalgic new wave and archaic guitar-powered compositions, it's Corgan's approach to the main microphone which keeps the end result remaining in familiar territory. // 7
Overall Impression: One would come to expect that narrowing the lineup down to two official members would largely spell out defeat for a rock group, however it's one which The Smashing Pumpkins have undergone with success in the past, and they do so again with the newly released "Monuments to an Elegy." The decision to incorporate the concrete swing of Tommy Lee proves to be a beneficial one, allowing a brief and heavily varietal performance to progress smoothly with the addition of lush chord progressions and Corgan's signature lyrical delivery. // 7
Monuments To An Elegy
twiggy3634, on december 30, 2014 6 of 7 people found this review helpful
Sound: With the departure of drummer Mike Byrne and bassist Nicole Fiorentino, Billy Corgan, along with frequent collaborator Jeff Schroeder, recruit drummer and founding member of Motley Crue, Tommy Lee for percussion duties while they aim to end The Smashing Pumpkins' "Teargarden by Kaleidyscope" project with their next two albums, "Monuments to an Elegy" and the soon to follow "Day for a Night."
On "Monuments to an Elegy," it's clear that Corgan wants to make good on his promise to return to form, and for much or it, he succeeds. The album starts off with "Tiberius," a pretty straight forward rock song with an infectious riff that is surely to satisfy fans yearning for the old. It is followed by the "Adore"-era sounding "Being Beige," the first single from the album. When first released, I wasn't too impressed with this song, I liked it, but it didn't really "wow" me, being the first hint of the album. It certainly works better with the flow of the whole album and I have a new appreciation for it now. Corgan ventures into new territories with "Anaise!," a funk-infused surprise. "One and All" is rock track with a Zwan vibe that puts Tommy Lee back in more comfortable waters, though he's pretty solid on the whole album. "Run2Me" introduces the more electronic side of the album, even though Corgan manages to bring the guitar out for the big choruses. "Drum + Fife" is catchy and moves the album along nicely. "Monuments" is built from a solid riff familiar to the heavier, grooves of 1995's "Mellon Collie & the Infinite Sadness." "Dorian" is the most electronic song on the album and would fit nicely with Corgan's 2005 solo effort "The Future Embrace." The album closes with "Anti-Hero," which reminds me of "Starz" from 2007's "Zeigeist" and in a very good way. // 8
Lyrics: One of the most unique voices in rock, either you like Billy Corgan's voice or you don't. Many think his voice is whiny and nasal, while others feel it almost contributes as an instrument to the music. Either way, it hasn't changed on this album. Lyrically, some people call Corgan a poet and some call him a lyrical over-achiever. On this album we see him, for the first time, underachieving with the lyrics. His as-of-late overuse of the word "lover" can get a little tiring, as well as the vagueness and repetition of many of the lyrics. He doesn't cover new ground here, most of which are about love, lost, emptiness, etc. Good thing the music makes up for this. // 6
Overall Impression: Overall, this is a very solid effort, surpassing anything Corgan has done since "Machina," including Zwan and a solo effort. As soon as I finished listing to it I wanted to hear it again. And I did. It will be interesting to see the new songs played live now that they've recruited former Rage Against the Machine's drummer Brad Wilk and The Killers bassist Mark Stoermer to rejuvenate their live line up. Corgan shows us that he clearly has some gas left in the tank and this album should have anyone excited on what's to come next year with the release of "Day for a Night." // 8
Monuments To An Elegy
CloudsAsSkin, on january 12, 2015 2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Sound: 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. // 9
Lyrics: 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..." // 7
Overall Impression: 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. // 9