Billy Corgan is nothing if not ambitious. For the past five years, the ’90s foremost alt-progger has devoted his output with The Smashing Pumpkins to the cause of an ongoing album series titled, in typical Pumpkin-ese, Teargarden by Kaleidyscope. To date, the umbrella project has encompassed EPs, digitally released singles and the excellently spacey 2012 LP Oceania.
Monuments to an Elegy is the newest addition to Teargarden. While it finds Corgan pushing at the Pumpkins’ parameters, the nine-song album feels uncharacteristically slight. Tracks like “One and All” and “Tiberius” are rendered in classic Pumpkins fashion, with Corgan’s spiky vocals poking holes through warm, wet blankets of fuzz guitar. But whereas Corgan has traditionally erected his walls of distortion to enact an emotional catharsis, here that trademark sound seems to be merely an end in itself.
As a result, these songs are better served when Corgan moves beyond his well-worn sonic techniques: adding some steely synths to “Monuments,” for instance, or propelling “Anaise!” with a tightly wound, bass-heavy rhythm. The overall sound might be slighter and less sprawling, but it’s also more sharply focused.
This article first appeared in the Dec. 13 issue of Billboard.