Smashing Pumpkins - Monuments To An Elegy

by Brian Lange. Rating:7 Release Date:2014-12-08

Billy Corgan is perhaps one of the most fascinating people to listen to interview. In a recent interview with Howard Stern, he talks about several things that point, at least in some way, to the making of this new record. Among them are his awareness of the tremendous change the record industry has taken, the paths that a majority of the mainstream music public seem to be taking in terms of pop music, his disappointment with old fans of The Pumpkins and their expectations of what sort of music Billy should be making. He is nothing short of vocal and passionate on these topics, but often seems to do so in a derisive tone. 

After it all started going wrong amid the Mellon Collie tour in the mid-90s, it was the beginning of the end for the band. Just a few years later, after some lackluster success with Zwan, a solo record, and soundtrack work, Billy wanted the Pumpkins back together but only drummer Jimmy Chamberlain would participate in the reunion. What resulted was, for many fans, a huge disappointment with strikingly different Zeitgeist, and complicated ongoing release of Teargarden by Kaleidyscope, which includes (sort of) the 2012 album Oceania

Fans have shown disappointment that the new Pumpkins doesn’t sound like the old Pumpkins, which of course enrages Billy even more. It should be universally known that all creative people will have the desire or need to evolve at some point. Sometimes this works, and sometimes it doesn’t.

Now, with completely new band-members and arguably still a completely different sound, Billy Corgan releases Monuments to an Elegy, which further develops the Teargarden project. In his interview with Stern, Billy states that the concept is ridiculous, with implications that the manner in which it is released or presented is going to transcend the music industry. Knowing Billy’s idiosyncratic over-indulgence with writing songs, it has the potential to never see an end. 

Sound familiar? Stern also acutely picks up on the fact that the band is going to be “..not what we are but what you think we are, and now we’re killing what you think we are.” 

All that being said, is the album up to scratch? Is it simply an extension of Billy’s ego and self-fulfilling prophecy? This is a complete derivation from the Pumpkins’ heyday. A lot of the gen x-ers who grew up with Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie and were upset about the incomplete reunion and subsequent music are likely not to enjoy this record as a 'Smashing Pumpkins' album. Music enthusiasts who can separate nostalgia and erase imaginary throughlines should be able to appreciate this for what it is: a well-made album.

The sound is appropriate for the new journey Billy is taking the Pumpkins. Oceania is a good precursor to this record, and one should appreciate the art that went into it. If this were not a record under the Smashing Pumpkins moniker, then it would be praised by many. 

It is catchy, energetic and a mature record. It’s no Siamese Dream and certainly light-years away from Mellon Collie & the Infinte Sadness, but Billy’s incredible talent and determination to create can not be denied.

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