The search for consensus. Two decades ago, Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness enjoyed the rarest of things: both critical and commercial success. The consensus during that period was that the Smashing Pumpkin’s music was both artistically magnificent and commercially viable. Since those high water marks, Corgan has spent the last 16 years clawing, scrabbling, and bad mouthing others on Morrissey levels of abandon in the attempt to reclaim his spot in the pantheon of relevance, searching for the same consensus. He has largely failed. All his Pumpkins releases since 1998’s wonderful but underrated Adore have pandered to, at times, his audience, and, at others, commercial viability, or at least what Corgan perceives to be commercial viability. In this context, Monuments to an Elegy is a callous, and contrived effort, but you know, Corgan writes the shit out of a song, so it’s not all bad.
Let’s begin with the good, or at least the decent. Opener ‘Tiberius’ sports razor sharp teeth and a mournful melody. As with each of his recent efforts Corgan shows here what he can achieve, and what he once achieved with ease. Its guitar is chunky like a double chocolate chip cookie, complemented by chiming synths, and Corgan’s vocal is effortlessly infectious. Top man. ‘Monuments’ is cut from a similar cloth. Big drums, big guitars, big vocals, all seamlessly woven together. It would be even better without all Corgan’s cringe inducing calls to his ‘lover’ during the chorus. It’s like walking in on your parents kissing. Just gross. It’s remarkable how a lyricist once capable of great nuance and subtlety resorts to such lazy cliches.
Much of the remainder is fairly pedestrian. ‘Being Beige’ is Corgan’s usual attempt at a saccharine, and overly maudlin love song. He’s been at it since Machina’s ‘Stand Inside Your Love’. Zeitgeist had ‘That’s The Way (My Love Is)’ and Oceania carried ‘My Love Is Winter’. All and every one a calculated shot at the success enjoyed by ‘1979’. The irony is that Corgan’s best pop song since ‘1979’ (or at least Adore’s ‘Perfect’), ‘Inkless’, was buried in the second half of Oceania, never to have even a sniff at radio play. ‘Run2me’ is even worse. Corgan has obviously been listening intently to Coldplay’s commercial successes with synth based pop music. Billy’s effort is just bad. Boring, bland, redundant. Chris Martin’s uncle singing 80s ballads at a wedding.
‘One and All’ sports the guitar riff of a Smashing Pumpkins wannabe band, while ‘Anti-Hero’ is simply post-grunge terrible. Like Bush covering Collective Soul. Much of the rest melds into the next track. There’s overtly ‘catchy’ melodies, lots of dodgy synth, and brevity. After the relative success of 2012’s Oceania, Monuments to an Elegy is a resounding disappointment. Corgan has become the one thing that had always seemed impossible: boring. It is, however, mercilessly short. And the artwork is pretty. Thanks Billy.
Average at a stretch.
Monuments to an Elegy is out on the 8th December via Martha’s Music/BMG.