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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Album review: The Smashing Pumpkins – Monuments to an Elegy

There’s much to enjoy in these nine short tracks but, Monuments to an Elegy remains a minor work, lacking a fraction of the depth or invention that has kept listeners going back to the Pumpkins’ heyday work.
Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins. Barry Brecheisen / Invision / AP Images
Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins. Barry Brecheisen / Invision / AP Images

The Smashing Pumpkins

Monuments to an Elegy

(Martha’s Music/BMG)

Three stars

Let’s face it, The Great Smashing Pumpkins Reunion of 2007 never really happened. After a seven-year break, easy-to-hate frontman/auteur Billy Corgan was able to recruit only one member for his baby’s big comeback.

Two years later, even ­ever-loyal drummer Jimmy Chamberlin flew the Pumpkin patch. Corgan recently confirmed that guitarist Jeff Schroeder, who joined for the reunion, is now the only other “official” band member.

Today, The Smashing Pumpkins is very much a Billy Corgan solo project masquerading as a brand.

Not such a problem, you might think – Corgan is a notorious control freak who everyone figured played everything anyway. But the disappointing comeback long-play record Zeitgeist left the posthumous impression that perhaps guitarist James Iha and bassist D’Arcy were more vital to the creative process than had been ­acknowledged.

With typical pomposity, the third LP from Pumpkins 2.0 is both the first half of a double album (Day for Night is set to drop next year), and follows 2012’s Oceania as the second instalment in an ongoing album cycle inspired the Tarot, Teargarden by Kaleidyscope.

So far, so silly – but despite the ridiculously portentous title, Monuments to an Elegy is a breezy nostalgia-facing album of big guitars, longing lyrics of lost love and hummable melodies while, oddly, Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee steps in on the drums.

The work it most recalls is Zwan, the pop-metal supergroup Corgan debuted after dissolving the Pumpkins. Because – get this – it’s actually quite happy. It would appear that at the age of 47, and 18 years after being told that “making teenagers depressed is like shooting fish in a barrel” in an authorised Simpsons parody, Corgan has finally cheered up. Or grown up? Perhaps realising he’s no longer singing to the disenfranchised youth, but to the fattened suits they became, he’s had to embrace a broader emotional palette.

Opener Tiberius is a satisfying Muse-tinged mid-tempo trouncer, Corgan’s whines battling to be heard over walls of distortion. Being Beige is a windswept, ­radio-ready singalong, while foot-to-the-floor One and All rocks with a Seattle swagger not heard since 1991 debut Gish.

The whole thing wraps in just 33-minutes – nearly half the hour-long yawn of its ­predecessor.

And yet one can’t help feeling sold short. The Smashing Pumpkins were a band defined by their sonic excesses and angsty indulgences. Every Pumpkins album since 1993’s Siamese Dream has held at least one epic clocking eight minutes or more – Monuments has only one tune over four.

There’s much to enjoy in these nine short tracks but, sorry ­Billy, Monuments to an Elegy remains a minor work, lacking a fraction of the depth or ­invention that has kept ­listeners going back to the Pumpkins’ heyday work.

rgarratt@thenational.ae