Album Review: The Smashing Pumpkins – Monuments to an Elegy

Does Billy Corgan have what it takes to produce another classic like Siamese Dream?

smashing pumpkins album cover The Smashing Pumpkins have over the last 15 years become wound up in such scorn and mockery that it can be very easy to forget what a fearsome prospect they once were. However, original members James Iha, D’arcy Wretzky and Jimmy Chamberlin haven’t been involved in years and really the ‘Smashing Pumpkins’ label is just been used as a ruse to convince us to buy another Billy Corgan solo album. Corgan, alternative rock’s answer to Axl Rose, is a hugely frustrating conundrum. One of the best songwriters of the 1990’s and an awe-inspiring, primitive performer, his own ego has often got in the way of him achieving all he should have. As such, Monuments to an Elegy has been greeted by a mass arousal of shrugs. However, at times the album threatens to be as elegiac as its conceited title professes. The stately ‘Tiberius’ is surely a later career highlight and even though ‘Monuments’ is crying out for a little bit more bite, it has the bones of something that could have been great.

Billy Corgan’s whine has become more prominent and less aggressive making it near unbearable, especially on ‘Being Beige’, a flimsy piece of Coldplay-esque arena rock which (surprise, surprise) also turns out to be a complete snore-fest.

The Smashing Pumpkins have become victims of their own pretension. No longer the angry, snotty brats of the nineties, Billy Corgan has struggled to transition into a true elder statesman of rock. FYI Billy, abbreviated titles like ‘Run2me’ do not make you down with the kids, nor do they highlight your ‘edgy’ credentials.

There are moments of that intense energy that made them one of the world’s biggest rock bands, but the Pumpkins’ own stamina fails them. Some moments in the album, like the soft rock plod of ‘Run2me’ are misjudged and misplaced. There’s no doubting that Corgan still has a way with a melody – ‘Drum + Fife’ sounds like a classic Garbage track for example – yet it all seems stale and out of date. It’s 22 years since the Smashing Pumpkins released their masterpiece, Siamese Dream, however no amount of praying is likely to give us another ‘Cherub Rock’ or ‘Geek USA’. We shall just have to take what we’re given.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

3 comments

  1. So sounding like classic Garbage (a post Siamese Dream outing) sounds stale and out of date, but in the next sentence there are notions of praying for another Cherub Rock (one of my low points when listening to the wonderful Siamese Dream.) Fife gives homage to Big Country far more than Garbage, in my impressions.

    I doubt the titling including a 2 is a plea to the new generation, as they had equally cheesy titles during the non-album Gish era. Unless the new era is into Erasure-esque synth attempts, which it isn’t, so it’s a bit the opposite.

    I never got Cherub Rock, nor songs like Bullet, another one critics both pine for yet criticize attempts at recapturing. It seems so easily the reluctant praises of Oceania are long forgotten. As far as Chamberlain being gone goes, I doubt the references to Billy Solo would read exactly the same had he still been around.

    No mention of Shroeder (Iha II) playing the old stuff better than we’ve ever heard in the live arena. James just stood there and noodled around, but I know…the album art and photo shoots just aren’t the same.

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  2. * don’t doubt

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  3. 1) Garbage, being a band who peaked in the 1990’s and whose sound is firmly of their time.

    2)I’m sure a lot of smashing pumpkins would love to see the band recreate the magic that helped make siamese dream one of the best albums of its era. Monuments to an Elegy is not the best album of this era.

    3)The title “Run2me” is a bit infantile for a 47 year old. Yes, they may have had cheesy titles pre-Gish, but that was over twenty when they were arguably “down with the kids”. When does it become time to grow up?

    4) Jeff Schroeder…well thats like saying DJ Ashba (*eye roll*) does the riff to Welcome to the Jungle pretty well, so we should all just trust Axl Rose’s judgement and carrying on forking out for his solo albums *cough, cough* sorry I meant Chinese Democracy.

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