2 December 2014

The Smashing Pumpkins - Monuments To An Elegy

Firstly, I am so glad that the Smashing Pumpkins are streaming this album before it is released.  It means I can get it in for the end of year polls.  Secondly, the fact I am getting to do this on the second anniversary of the blog starting is brilliant.  The Smashing Pumpkins are one of my most favourite bands, they have made some of the best albums I have ever seen and their last show in Newcastle-upon-Tyne was one of the best show I had seen; this was due in no small part that the band did not just play they hits and they played songs from the as-then unreleased album 'Oceania' (Cleverly linked here).  At the time, I was a little but unfazed by 'Oceania' as it seemed to distract from the Teargarden By Kaleidyscope.  However, Mr Corgan is now stating that the albums are also part of this series; whilst it was not how the project was originally going to be finished, but as this is Mr Corgan's project who am I to disagree?  Since 'Oceania' two further members of the band have been wished well on their future endeavours and the band are now just Mr Corgan, Jeff Schroeder and for this album, the drums are supplied by Tommy Lee (drummer of Mötley Crüe and leader of Methods Of Mayhem).  If legend is to be believed, Billy Corgan has been making most of the music for Smashing Pumpkins by himself for years.  So I still find it funny when people get pissed that he keeps using the Smashing Pumpkins name.  Now this album is not released until 8th December 2014 in the UK, but I have found a stream of the album.  Therefore, thanks to the band streaming this album we can now review the album....

Starting the album is the piano intro which leads into "Tiberius" which was recently given away as a part of a sampler given away when the album was pre-ordered at specially selected shops.  The riff is really good on the song, the drumming from Tommy Lee is spot on with this number and even with the Extreme-esque keyboards (brass trumpet sounds) and you can see that the passion and pride that Mr Corgan has for this album from the beginning.  It is a song that has pieces from each era of their existence and that is probably one of the best ways to start the album off.  Next is "Being Beige" which was the first song to be released off the album at end of October 2014.  It starts off with an acoustic guitar and drum machine, Mr Corgan singing sweetly about a love and then the main section of the song is another post-grunge sound that is very easy on the ear.  It was not the most exciting introduction to the album when I first heard it; but it was also not a bad song.  In fact it is a very good song, held together with a simple piano riff, some wonderful guitar work and some bitter sweet lyrics; it has also been a track I have played a lot since it was on their Soundcloud.  It was just a stranger choice of lead track for the album, for me at least.  Third track "Anaise!" is a rather bizarre little number, the odd pace of the lyrics, bass tone and the quiet frankly mysteriously outlandish lyrics make this an interesting number.  Upon firstly listen I was a little lost at sea; but the more I listened to it, the more it made sense for me.  It is not one for the rockers; it has more in common with Billy Corgan's solo album ' TheFutureEmbrace' musically than anything else.  It is a song that keeps on getting better with each listen.

"One And All (We Are)" is the fourth track here, this was released on 5th November 2014 and the fuzzy distortion peddle is back in the centre of the album.  It is a song which is matching the ideals of its creator, the chorus is towering, the riff is chunky and whilst the tune does remind me a lot of "Zero", there is still enough going on to distinguish it from "Zero".  "Run2Me" once again goes into the electronica side of the Pumpkins experience, mixed in with some brilliant drumming (have to say, so far Mr Tommy Lee has not hide a duff drum beat), a subtle riff and more love songs from Mr Corgan that has a very 80's feel about it.  It is probably the moment on the album which does not sit too well with the rest of its brethren, however for me a bad Pumpkins song is still a good number.  Still decent, but it does not excite me as much as other tracks on the album.  "Drum + Fife" was the third song to be released off this album on 20 November 2014, once more the Pumpkins have not gone for the most obvious route here; this is not the most easy of songs for me to like on the album upon first listen.  The pipe effect on the song, the way the riff is played and lyrics were not effective upon the first couple of spins; however as has been proven more than once on this record, this song grows with each listen.  It is now another number that has grown with each listen and this gives me a lot of hope for this album's future.

"Monuments" is the seventh song on the album and once again the band is rocking and mixing in the keyboards with great effect for this number.  Whilst once again not doing anything that I have not heard before from the band, it is still doing more than enough to keep the listener engaged with the album; also much like the rest of the record it grows with repeat listens.  The penultimate track is called "Dorian" which really should have been used on 'TheFutureEmbrace', much like "Anaise!" it is more focused on their electronica side to their music.  My interest in this song is actually higher than their more traditional number such as "Monuments" and "One And All (We Are)", it is just a much more interesting song with a lot more intrigue for me.  In fact if it was not for "Drum + Fife" it would have been the song of the album.  Ending this record is "Anti-Hero" and once again the riff machine is out and it does bring the album to a fitting conclusion, with drums pounding, guitars on fire, keyboards placed strategically and Billy singing in a style that makes this listener feel like he is still that young child listening to the band for the first time.

Firstly, I feel I have to mention the length of the album; it is surprisingly short for a Smashing Pumpkins release.  At just over half an hour, it goes by in the blink of an eye.  Also, only one of the songs is over four minutes in length and it is quite frankly very refreshing to be honest.  There has been a couple of releases from these guys which would have been better with just a song or two kept for the b-sides, but this is by the by; this song is stripped down and on first listen is a very good record.  On the second, third and fourth listens, it just keeps on improving.  It is a brilliant album and shows that there is still a fire in the heart of Billy Corgan; if he carries out his threat to end the Pumpkins if this does not meet his commercial expectations is another thing, but this album is really good.  I fully expect that I wished I gave it a better mark in a few months time....

8.5 out of ten - Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my money, time and heart

Top track - Drum + Fife

You can purchase the album from Amazon here

You can visit The Smashing Pumpkins website is here

Whilst the whole album is not on here, this is a link to the Soundcloud page for the band

Once (and if) the albums appear on Spotify or Deezer, I will put the links on here

However, for now it is being streamed on iTunes here (America only I think)

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