Adios to the glory days.
The Smashing Pumpkins have forged themselves a reputation, which is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing in that no matter what they (or at least what is left of them) put out, fans will continue to flock to the band that they adore and admire. A curse, in that nothing will ever quite match up to the good old days.
Having said that, ‘Tiberius’ and ‘Anaise!’ are extremely strong contenders. ‘Tiberius’ is a massive, surprising track that’s honest and bold in its conviction. The measured way in which it branches out from soft, sprinkling piano keys to sharp, lively instrumentals renders it heavy and simultaneously haunting. ‘Anaise!’ is similar, showcasing the skill that The Smashing Pumpkins have in dipping in and out of different genres to keep things interesting. This is classic rock, tinged with industrial-esque electronics. It’s also layered and sassy, and a serious justification for The Smashing Pumpkins’ continued existence.
The genre-pastiche that The Smashing Pumpkins experiment with also makes itself known on ‘Drum + Fife.’ The wind-sounding instrumentals that feature in its almost timid beginning sound raw, and the music sounds almost fantasy-folk.
But this album also has edge. ‘One and All’ is heavy, with vulnerable lyrics including this pity-soliciting line: ‘don’t you mind if it’s me at all?’ Never mind that on the verge of being an old-timer, Corgan sings about youth. This song is genuinely heartbreaking.
‘Monuments’ is as dark as ‘One and All’ and ten times as atmospheric: the instrumentals emit other worldly vibes. ‘Dorian’ is reflectively atmospheric, but so consistently sombre and anti-climactic that its intensity is heightened. Contrastingly, ‘Anti-Hero’ has guitars that borderline chugging. If there was one thing that you wouldn’t expect on an album that experiments so deeply with electronic sounds (as if Corgan has just discovered them), it’s that. Unfortunately, the electronics aren’t subtle or effective: they’re overwhelming.
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‘Anti-Hero’ digs itself into a hole by singing about ‘a girl like you’ like it’s a topic that the Pumpkins haven’t already addressed. Ironically, Corgan recently criticised the Foo Fighters for ‘making the same music.’
If this was the inception of The Smashing Pumpkins, ‘Monuments To An Elegy’ would have been a ground breaking debut. But it’s not, and now the Pumpkins are fighting for an invitation to the main stage with the same bands that they inspired to form in the first place.
Sure, it’s a progression. The songs are short, a sure attempt to remain relevant in an era of the unapologetic button mash of ‘next’ every time you pull out your iPod in a waiting room. The methodically brief record clocks in at under 33 minutes. The shortness is proven to work on ‘Run2me’, when the only song that toes it over the four minute line begins to feel eye-rollingly repetitious.
It’s not that this album is bad. It’s just not the return that we’ve all been yearning for.
The Smashing Pumpkins’ fan base is awaiting a miraculous, chariot of fire revival. That’s not here. ‘Monuments To An Elegy’ is a solid effort, so long as you don’t measure it against a past that can never be re-created and Billy Corgan's unrealistic proclamations.
2. Being Beige
4. One and All
6. Drum + Fife