The Smashing Pumpkins’ latest studio effort, Monuments to an Elegy, comes in as the fourth and penultimate installment of the group’s ongoing project Teargarden by Kaleidyscope. Given the album’s unconventional release—technically existing as an album within an album—and Billy Corgan’s incessantly vocalized desire to be appreciated as a brilliant artist prior to the album’s release, Monuments to an Elegy comes off as a conscientious stab at high art. But it ultimately flops.
Though the album features an abridged, three-piece lineup with only Jeff Schroder on guitar, Tommy Lee of Mötley Crüe on drums, and Billy Corgan manning everything else, it is very solid instrumentally. The guitar riffs and drums, for the most part, deliver a resounding, edgy punch in a style reminiscent of their 1995 release, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, as is most evident on the raw opening track “Tiberius.” This edge is nicely counterbalanced with various spacy and rather low-key synthesizer and keyboard parts skillfully mixed in tracks such as “Monuments” and “Being Beige.” The highlight of this album, though, is “Anaise!”, which pushes the band into new funk/space-rock directions, yet still delivers a solid groove.
The vocals, however, kill this album. Disregarding the love-hate relationship one may have with Billy Corgan’s (in)famous wails, the vocal melodies and lyrics themselves are the real problem here. Numerous tracks, notably “Dorian” and “Run2me”, are lyrically sparse and melodically repetitive. A drinking game could easily be made by merely counting the obscene amount of times the word ‘lover’ is used. Monuments to and Elegy clearly demonstrates a genuine change of sound for The Smashing Pumpkins; however, much to the dismay of Billy Corgan, change itself does not equate to brilliance.