You know what doesn’t suck? The new Smashing Pumpkins album.
I’ve listened to probably 6 or 7 new albums this year – that includes reissues of seminal albums I already adore – and of all the hot new records I expected to enjoy this year, I couldn’t have predicted that one of them would include the words ‘Smashing’ or ‘Pumpkins’ in any order.
But Monuments to an Elegy (ugh – but, what do you expect by now?) is a fun listen. It could easily have been called Monuments to Brevity – this is a very short Pumpkins release – more of an EP than an album, and still packed with hefty slabs of rock. And it’s all the better for it, actually.
I’m very much the kind of person to melt into a full album playback, and if I have the time for it then a sprawling double disc package (let’s say, Mellon Collie…, Cold Roses, or something by Stars of the Lid) is my idea of heaven. But there’s absolutely something to be said for the short, sharp, hair-over-the-half-hour release that just dispenses with the crud and compresses an album’s worth of ideas into the length of a short stroll.
Monuments… is varied though – there are the chugging power-pop riffs that keep me hot-footing it up Finchley Road to work these recent cold, crisp mornings. And then there are the slightly twinklier, more delicate numbers.
It’s these latter that allow Billy Corgan’s teenage poetry lyrics a little too much room to breathe, but – again – what have we come to expect by this point? And, no matter, because those songs are brief and pleasant enough distractions from tracks like One and All, the album’s centrepiece.
This big, chunky track sounds like it could have been assembled by a supercomputer plugged into a SP algorithm, but if that supercomputer consists of Billy Corgan surrounded by talented session musicians, and it sounds this great, then I think that’s fine.
One further bonus of an album of this length is that it allows the listener to stick the odd stand-out track on repeat a few times to bulk it out a bit, should they desire it. And this is a catchy album that demands repeat listens.
As 2014 wraps up – alarmingly quickly, as these things happen – it’s natural to reflect on the events of the past twelve months. How nice, then, to have a short, sharp little release like this so close to the end of the year. I’ll stick it on the list. If there is one. Which there might not be. But it feels like there ought to be.