Mary Star of the Sea

Zwan’s debut is a great Modern Rock™ album. That is, if you like that sort of thing. And — if you haven’t experienced radio lately — that’s, let’s be clear, damning with faint praise. One would’ve hoped after dismissing his Smashing Pumpkins compatriots (except drummer Jimmy Chamberlin), and adding indie-rock stalwart David Pajo (Slint, Will Oldham) and Perfect Circle bassist Paz Lenchantin, that Billy Corgan would be inspired to deliver a new album. But true to the formula he’s employed since his debut, Gish (released within weeks of the Modern Rock™ -shaping Nevermind album), there’s little that’s fresh in his approach.

That approach, for the uninitiated, is a quiet, usually swirling guitar intro, which continues to swell and subside without resolution before exploding into the first chorus. This “dynamic” continues until the break, which finally resolves with either a big solo or some spacey art-rock effect, before retreating back to that tired soft / loud move, usually accompanied by doo-wop-ish female vocals as it approaches the finish. Having described most of the album, attention turns to what passes for lyrics, an ad nauseam repetition of the chorus that reaches some sort of apex on “Settle Down,” which repeats that phrase eight times in each of the three choruses. Which isn’t to say that Mr. “Rat in a Cage Despite All My Rage” is incapable of rhyme, just that his rhyming dictionary output produces inscrutable haikus such as “a lyric, a time / a crusade, a line / one minute, a friend / a road without end,” which rivals “one hand clapping” as a head-scratcher. Professionally delivered, Corgan should find no need to rerecord parts himself, as he did in his previous outfit, but this album epitomizes Modern Rock™ pabulum, an oft-repeated tale of sound and fury signifying absolutely nada.

E-mail Chris Parker at [email protected].

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