Thursday, February 22, 2018

Album Review: Smashing Pumpkins “Monuments”

CHARLIE McMAHON ’18

A&E EDITOR

Personally, I’m not a huge fan of contemporary music. For that reason, I usually listen to older classic rock, but happily, the new Smashing Pumpkins album taught me that there’s still hope for contemporary rock, though it is harder to pin down. In case you haven’t heard of the band, they were wildly popular in the 90’s, with critically acclaimed albums such as “Siamese Dreams” and “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness,” both of which launched Billy Corgan and company into punk-rock fueled stardom. Following their hedonistic heyday, the band went through several personnel changes, resulting in a considerably long hiatus. After several years of poorly received albums, Corgan was the sole remaining original member of the band. Things looked bleak, and aside from a small devoted fan base, the public moved on.
Because many Americans were no longer concerned with the musings of a “washed up grunge druggie,” the album “Monuments to an Elegy” had a quiet release. However, slowly but surely, “Monuments” began to gain momentum, with critics praising the originality of “Anaise.” The critics felt that this track harkened back to the band’s glory days when the Pumpkπins reigned at the top of the 90’s alt rock hierarchy. Their popularity was once overwhelming, and their songs were played just about everywhere. Even though maybe they won’t return to the chart topping days of their past, there is a definite sense of resurgence to the new album that is very encouraging to fans.
Unlike the smash concept album “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness,” “Monuments” is much more listenable, requiring much less thought than its preceding albums. If you want to listen to the Smashing Pumpkins for the sake of listening, turn on one of the earlier two, but unless you’re comfortable devoting all of your cognitive skills to interpreting Corgan’s encrypted lyrics, “Monuments to an Elegy” will work much better for you.
Comparing the two distinct phases of the band brings to mind another well-known musicians documented transitory changes. In the later years of the Beatles, Paul McCartney worked to create some of the greatest psychedelic lyrics of all time, forcing the listener to pay close attention to what was being said, because with even one minute of tuning out, you could completely lose sense of the message. That said, after the Beatle’s disintegration, Paul formed Wings, a great band that produced fun music. However, their songs were nowhere near as complex as the work done by the fab four, and was said by critics to be an unfortunate departure from a great musical path. Personally, “Sargent Pepper” is my favorite album of all time, but if I’m simply in the mood to kick back and listen to some good classic rock, Wings is my choice. The same can be said of “Monuments to an Elegy.” While far less detailed than the work done by the band in the early 90’s, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
To sum up the album, I’d say that it’s definitely worth tuning into. If you’ve never listened to, or dare I say even heard of the Smashing Pumpkins, “Monuments” is a simple introduction to a very complicated band.

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