The Smashing Pumpkins

Monuments to an Elegy

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As he set to work on Monuments to an Elegy, the second "album within an album" within the larger Teargarden by Kaleidyscope project, Billy Corgan slowly whittled down Smashing Pumpkins to himself and guitarist Jeff Schroeder. This narrowing of the group -- the duo is supported by the hired hand of Mötley Crüe's drummer Tommy Lee -- ultimately doesn't matter much because ever since the Pumpkins' 2007 comeback, the secret of Corgan's complete control of the group was out in the open. More than either Zeitgeist or Oceania, both of which traded in the surging six-strings of Siamese Dream, Monuments to an Elegy feels like a Corgan solo project and not just because this percolates with analog synthesizers straight out of The Future Embrace. Monuments stitches together all of Corgan's obsessions -- thick sheets of guitars, 4AD space rock, delicate acoustica, Commodore 64 synthesizers, a fondness for both noise and beauty -- but there is an ease to the album that not only feels self-reflective but also rather mature. Usually, when Corgan covers this much ground it was with the express intent to dazzle, but here his attitude is almost casual as he slides from the volcanic "One and All" to the exquisitely sculpted new wave of "Dorian," stopping for a respite of disco on "Anaise!" The breadth impresses and it resonates stronger because he's funneled all these sounds and textures into a tight nine-song album that lasts barely over a half-hour. For an artist who has fervently believed more is indeed more, this restraint is thoroughly appealing and helps showcase his craft in surprising -- and, yes, sometimes dazzling -- ways.

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