On initial hearing, Mary Star of the Sea
by Zwan--Billy Corgan's first musical project after the Smashing Pumpkins--sounds light and breezy. His new bandmates-- Slint
guitarist Dave Pajo, Skunk
guitarist Matt Sweeney, A Perfect Circle
bassist Paz Lenchantin and fellow Pumpkin Jimmy Chamberlain on drums--have given Corgan a fresh perspective and his time as touring guitarist for New Order seems to have heightened his love for mid-80s British indie. There are moments of straightforward jangle pop herein, while "Settle Down" reflects the moody angular style adopted by the likes of Interpol. He also appears to have fallen in love. "Honestly" has Corgan sighing "There is no place I could be without you
I feel love" like a newly reborn soppy fool. "Declarations of Faith" has him declaring "maybe we were born to love" to a gooey melody that recalls American Anglophile indie bands like Papas Fritas
It's all a million musical and spiritual miles away from the messy pretension that led to the end of the Pumpkins. As the album progresses, though, Zwan merge this new perspective with the FM radio suss that characterised the best of the Pumpkins to produce a record that takes in 70s balladry and a 14 minute Spiritualized tribute (the title track) without feeling forced. There is even a nod to Britpop ("Baby Let's Rock!" is Suede pretending to be Menswear). It'll all end in tears, of course, but on this record Corgan's having the time of his life. --Ian Watson
Zwan is Billy Corgan's new band. The ex-Smashing Pumpkin has produced an album full of bright and breezy pop songs that are full of the joys of life. This is a back to basics record that will satisfy Pumpkin heads and should bring on board a whole new legion of fans.
Billy Corgan finally brought The Smashing Pumpkins to an end in 2000. The final couple of years of their illustrious career had been fraught with death, drug abuse and, with their last studio album Machina / The Machines Of God, critical and commercial failure.
To form Zwan Corgan called upon old friends Slint / Tortoise guitarist Dave Pajo, Skunk guitarist Matt Sweeney, A Perfect Circle bassist Paz Lenchantin and fellow Pumpkin drummer Jimmy Chamberlain. Together they've got the enthusiasm, excitement and vitality that all new bands possess. Combine that with years of experience and the invaluable ability to produce radio friendly pop songs and you have a winning team.
The 14 tracks on Mary Star of the Sea do sound like Smashing Pumpkins songs. Corgans nasal voice is instantly recognisable but it is the guitars that sound most familiar; sonic noises and guitar riffs that soar. As with classic Pumpkins albums, this record features heavy rock anthems ("Ride A Black Swan"), followed by more peaceful ballads ("Heartsong").
The album is jam packed full of great songs. "El Sol" is a beautiful indie track, "Yeah" is just plain cool and "Jesus I / Mary of the Sea" is a fantastic 14 minute epic roller coaster ride!
If you disliked the doom and gloom that was so characteristic of the Pumpkins later albums you have nothing to fear. Mary Star of the Sea is full of fun and simple happiness, even love. 'There is no place I could be without you...I feel love' sings Corgan in the superb "Honestly". You can sense the enjoyment the band had in making these bouncy pop songs. Beware; you won't be able to wipe the smile of your face.
Is it better or worse than The Smashing Pumpkins? Who cares, it sounds great and that's good enough for me. --Dan Tallis
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