Smashing Pumpkins: Monuments to an Elegy

Meet the new Smashing Pumpkins, gradually distancing themselves from the old Smashing Pumpkins.

Smashing Pumpkins

Monuments to an Elegy

Label: BMG
US Release Date: 2014-12-09
UK Release Date: 2014-12-08
Label website
Artist website

With Monuments to an Elegy, Billy Corgan has ushered the Smashing Pumpkins name into a new chapter. The parameters of this new chapter, however, are a little fuzzy and the ripple effects they may or may not trigger are anyone's guess. For instance, despite Corgan description that Monuments was going to have "guitars, guitars, guitars and more guitars", keyboards play a heavy role in the sound. To say that this is Corgan's take on a synthpop album applies to certain songs but certainly not all of them. For some tracks, the keyboard is an ornamental crutch for the guitars. But on a song like "Run2me", the keyboard is the song's driving force with the guitars riding in the sidecar. This is just one example of the open-ended impression one gets from hearing Monuments to an Elegy over and over again, a brief album that can't afford to be shy about its sound.

Monuments's brevity is something that fans of Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness will need to adjust to: nine tracks with only one clearing the four-minute mark. In comparison to the rest of the Pumpkins' discography, this album is truly a hit-it-and-quit-it release. Billy Corgan and Jeff Schroeder sew each song tight with no more of an introduction, musical interlude or outro than is absolutely needed. There are no ballads and no jams. Corgan's forecast of multiple guitars is tempered pretty well, steering just around the inevitable bombast. Some of the songs have remnants of the band's shoegaze past, though they're not guaranteed to transport you back to the days of Gish or Siamese Dream. I find that the anointment of Monuments to an Elegy as a "return to form" is a little misleading. If a track like "Dorian" has a precursor, it's either from 1998's Adore or the 2005 Corgan solo album The Future Embrace, two releases that critics and the general public were a little too willing to bury under a pile of indifference.

Three elegiac singles propel Monuments -- "Being Beige", "One and All" and "Drum + Fife" (they actually make up a third of the product). All have that sleek, post-Mellon Collie glide that delivers just the right amount of atmosphere per rawk. "Being Beige" in particular stirs up an optimistic sound of a scaling keyboard figure over a bed made from a gently picked acoustic guitar. "The world's on fire, so have you heard." At one time, everyone associated Billy Corgan's songs with doom and gloom. Nowadays, they don't seem to fit in any neatly-defined slot on the mood spectrum. And as usual, he is able to come up with some catchy yet vague (at best) set of words on which to hang his musical hooks. "It goes on and on." "We are, we are so young." "Run to me, my lover strange." "Don't you ever be afraid." "I feel alright, I feel alright tonight." "Lover, you're strange to me." They're for the vocal cadence sucker in all of us.

Billy Corgan's career has gone through so many transitory phases that it's become difficult to predict what will truly be pivotal and what's just flirtation. But something is happening inside of Monuments to an Elegy. Perhaps it's the fact that the Smashing Pumpkins are down to just Corgan and Schroeder with Mötley Crüe's Tommy Lee there to just lend a hand. Maybe it's the increasing incentive for artists to go it alone amid a floundering business model. In any case, the songs themselves have shrunk while the sound continues to expand outward. As old pieces of the Pumpkins sound fall away, new ones latch on for the ride. And it's for these reasons and a myriad of others that the most devoted of the Pumpkins flock will probably look back on Monuments to an Elegy as a bridge to something else. And as far as bridges go, it's mighty sturdy.





Paul Weller - "Earth Beat" (Singles Going Steady)

Paul Weller's singular modes as a soul man, guitar hero, and techno devotee converge into a blissful jam about hope for the earth on "Earth Beat".


On Point and Click Adventure Games with Creator Joel Staaf Hästö

Point and click adventure games, says Kathy Rain and Whispers of a Machine creator Joel Staaf Hästö, hit a "sweet spot" between puzzles that exercise logical thinking and stories that stimulate emotions.


The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 1, Gang of Four to the Birthday Party

If we must #quarantine, at least give us some post-punk. This week we are revisiting the best post-punk albums of all-time and we kick things off with Gang of Four, Public Image Ltd., Throbbing Gristle, and more.


Alison Chesley Toils in Human and Musical Connectivity on Helen Money's 'Atomic'

Chicago-based cellist, Alison Chesley (a.k.a. Helen Money) creates an utterly riveting listen from beginning to end on Atomic.


That Kid's 'Crush' Is a Glittering Crossroads for E-Boy Music

That Kid's Crush stands out for its immediacy as a collection of light-hearted party music, but the project struggles with facelessness.


Percival Everett's ​​​'Telephone​​​' Offers a Timely Lesson

Telephone provides a case study of a family dynamic shaken by illness, what can be controlled, and what must be accepted.


Dream Pop's Ellis Wants to be 'Born Again'

Ellis' unhappiness serves as armor to protect her from despair on Born Again. It's better to be dejected than psychotic.


Counterbalance No. 10: 'Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols'

The Spirit of ’77 abounds as Sex Pistols round out the Top Ten on the Big List. Counterbalance take a cheap holiday in other people’s misery. Right. Now.


'Thor: Ragnarok' Destroys and Discards the Thor Mythos

Taika Waititi's Thor: Ragnarok takes a refreshingly iconoclastic approach to Thor, throwing out the old, bringing in the new, and packaging the story in a colourful, gorgeously trashy aesthetic that perfectly captures the spirit of the comics.


Alps 2 and Harry No Release Eclectic Single "Madness at Toni's Chip Shop in Wishaw" (premiere)

Alps 2 and Harry NoSong's "Madness at Toni's Chip Shop in Wishaw" is a dizzying mix of mangled 2-step rhythms and woozy tranquil electronics.


Kathleen Grace and Larry Goldings Team for Wonderfully Sparse "Where Or When" (premiere)

Kathleen Grace and Larry Goldings' "Where Or When" is a wonderfully understated performance that walks the line between pop and jazz.


Run the Jewels - "Ooh LA LA" (Singles Going Steady)

Run the Jewels' "Ooh LA LA" may hit with old-school hip-hop swagger, but it also frustratingly affirms misogynistic bro-culture.


New Translation of Balzac's 'Lost Illusions' Captivates

More than just a tale of one man's fall, Balzac's Lost Illusions charts how literature becomes another commodity in a system that demands backroom deals, moral compromise, and connections.


Protomartyr - "Processed by the Boys" (Singles Going Steady)

Protomartyr's "Processed By the Boys" is a gripping spin on reality as we know it, and here, the revolution is being televised.


Go-Go's Bassist Kathy Valentine Is on the "Write" Track After a Rock-Hard Life

The '80s were a wild and crazy time also filled with troubles, heartbreak and disappointment for Go-Go's bass player-guitarist Kathy Valentine, who covers many of those moments in her intriguing dual project that she discusses in this freewheeling interview.


New Brain Trajectory: An Interview With Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree

Two guitarists, Lee Ranaldo and Raül Refree make an album largely absent of guitar playing and enter into a bold new phase of their careers. "We want to take this wherever we can and be free of genre restraints," says Lee Ranaldo.


'Trans Power' Is a Celebration of Radical Power and Beauty

Juno Roche's Trans Power discusses trans identity not as a passageway between one of two linear destinations, but as a destination of its own.


Yves Tumor Soars With 'Heaven to a Tortured Mind'

On Heaven to a Tortured Mind, Yves Tumor relishes his shift to microphone caressing rock star. Here he steps out of his sonic chrysalis, dons some shiny black wings and soars.


Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras' tētēma Don't Hit the Mark on 'Necroscape'

tētēma's Necroscape has some highlights and some interesting ambiance, but ultimately it's a catalog of misses for Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras.


M. Ward Offers Comforting Escapism on 'Migration Stories'

Although M. Ward didn't plan the songs on Migration Stories for this pandemic, they're still capable of acting as a balm in these dark hours.

Collapse Expand Reviews
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.