Zwan Mary Star of the Sea

[Reprise; 2003]

Styles: alternative rock
Others: Smashing Pumpkins

I really didn't want this review to be an assessment of Billy Corgan and his career. He's been trying to keep the new band from carrying the title Zwan featuring Billy Corgan, but because his name appears at least five times in the two-page liner notes (excluding credit for Vocals/Guitar, as it is given to Billy Burke), I think its fair to make it just that.

I followed the Smashing Pumpkins until the end, loving anything they'd release. Of course the later albums were not nearly the same caliber as Siamese Dream, but neither were any other rock albums being released at the time. Billy's lyrics and music carried an incredible weight. His passion for what he was doing was always obvious. His problem, though, lied in taking shit from sales and reviews. After Adore, which was packed with love and honesty, he was criticized for taking the bands music in a softer, more electronic direction and for letting go of Jimmy Chamberlin. He complained because sales weren't at the height they'd been for previous releases. But Billy failed to realize that, between Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness and Adore, most of his fans had aged a few years, and the general public had basically forgotten about the band. So he brought Jimmy back into the band and released an album for which they fell on their swords for rock and roll. On the surface, the album seemed to be some generic conjure of rock music meant to satisfy the fans. On the contrary, there was an extraordinary amount of pain, emotion, and irony poured into the music. Sales were poor and Billy broke up the band.

Not so many months later, he and Chamberlin form a band called Zwan. The bands music seems to be designed for the radio, and has no apparent creative merit. What conclusion can we make? It doesn't seem as though Billy is in it for the music anymore. Is it for the money? Doubtful. Is it for the popularity? What else could it be?

Let's step outside the Corgan realm for a moment. Mary Star Of The Sea -- there's nothing to it. Its unexciting. There are no climactic points. Few songs are worth mentioning. The lyrics bare no depth. The singing isn't even melodic (aside from a handful of catchy choruses). If names like Corgan, Pajo, and Sweeney weren't in the band, would we even consider listening to it? They've created a band of pop stars? Is there something going on that I'm not comprehending? Is this a statement? A joke? They sound like Billy and the Blowfish.

The instrumentation is simple: several guitar and vocal lines over drums, bass, and keyboard. Guitar and synthesizer effects are plentiful but cliché. Corgan doesn't even use his wretched screaming Billy voice. (Although, some might consider that a good thing.) The music is consistently upbeat but over the top. The first single, "Honestly," is a perfect example. Even in the video they have this constant grin on their faces. Seriously, are they joking? This is like the Traveling Wilburys posing as a Monkees cover band.

"Of A Broken Heart" is the sad track on the album. It's a decent song, but only because it sounds like one that The Smashing Pumpkins might have released. Even at that, it wouldn't have been a particularly good one. Track 13 is two separate songs that have a serene, drawn out segue. The second of the two songs is sort of a jam with a bit of singing. I like the fact that there is still structure through the end of the jam, but that doesn't mean much considering the music itself isn't very good.

I could mention the way Corgan produced the album, but like the music writing itself, it could have been done by anyone.

I'm hoping that some kind of explanation for this album will soon surface. I also want an explanation for the rumors that this album was supposed to be good. They must have originated from the Top 40 reviewers. But that's okay, right? After all, that's what Billy wanted. To be appreciated by the majority? It's all for the kids, right? He used to talk about Britney as though she were his enemy. Apparently he's taken the phrase "if you can't beat them, join them" to heart. My guess, though, is that Billy's about to take it in the ass from the critics worse than he ever has before.

1. Lyric
2. Settle Down
3. Declarations of Faith
4. Honestly
5. El Sol
6. Of a Broken Heart
7. Ride a Black Swan
8. Heartsong
9. Endless Summer
10. Baby Let's Rock!
11. Yeah!
12. Desire
13. Jesus, I/Mary Star of the Sea
14. Come With Me

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