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'Monuments To An Elegy' By Smashing Pumpkins: Album Review

Ashley Hawkins |
December 12, 2014 | 12:34 a.m. PST

Staff Reporter

"Monuments..." is the band's ninth album and its best in years. (Photo via smashingpumpkinsnexus.com)
"Monuments..." is the band's ninth album and its best in years. (Photo via smashingpumpkinsnexus.com)
Billy Corgan comes from a breed of musicians (including Kanye West and Jack White, among others) that enjoys creating controversy.

From starting a strange war with Anderson Cooper following Corgan’s appearance on the “PAWS Chicago” magazine with his cats to blasting other alt-rock groups from the nineties (namely Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters) in his Howard Stern interview, the Smashing Pumpkins singer has certainly embraced his role as an instigator this year.

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Yet another thing Billy Corgan has in common with Kanye and Jack White: the musical expertise to offset his somewhat unsavory media presence. With “Monuments to an Elegy” – Smashing Pumpkins’ ninth studio album – Billy Corgan (who is not only the voice and face of the band but also its remaining original member) has created a diverse, coherent, enjoyable album.

The shortest Smashing Pumpkins album, with almost all songs running under four minutes long, “Monuments to an Elegy” is different from the band’s previous releases in many ways – especially in its reliance on the synthesizer, giving many songs and electro-pop tinge. However, even with this experimentation, traces of 90s alt rock and the band’s old sound still appear throughout the album.

Most notably, the second single, “One and All (We Are),” the most guitar-heavy track on the album, and “Drum + Fife,” with its strong guitar and drum background, sound reminiscent of the band’s 1995 breakthrough album “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness.”

Featuring the guitar, drums, and synthesizer in a more traditional alt-rock way, “Tiberius” also evokes 90s alt-metal (comparable to Tool) and early Smashing Pumpkins, building its melody from a simple piano intro just as in “Today.” Similarly, “Anaise!” has a 90s alt-metal-influenced heavy drum backbeat a la Faith No More.  

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On the other end of the spectrum, both “Being Beige” and “Run2me,” which hardly has any guitar in it at all, are essentially synth-pop songs. Although the former has guitar throughout the chorus and a “1979”-ish uplifting quality, the prominence of the synthesizer throughout the song and especially in the verses make it sound less like a typical alt-rock song.

However, the album’s biggest strength is its ability to combine these disparate styles, exemplified by the last third of the album. While “Monuments” is heavy like “Tiberius,” it also has a captivating synth-driven chorus; “Dorian” offers a sleek mixture of synthesizer and guitar as the main instruments; and “Anti-Hero” smoothly unites a strong, 90s alt-metal-inspired drum backbeat with heavy alt-rock and melodic synthesizer accents.

Unquestionably Smashing Pumpkins’ best release in a very long time, “Monuments to an Elegy” is sure to please not only fans of the band’s old music but also fans of more electronic- and synth-infused modern alternative music.

Reach Staff Reporter Ashley Hawkins here



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