Mary Star of the Sea

Mary Star of the Sea

4.9 11
by Zwan

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With the Pumpkins smashed once and for all, Billy Corgan sets sail for new waters on this free-ranging disc -- and ends up making some mighty interesting discoveries. Zwan's basic sound doesn't diverge all that much from that of the Pumpkins, with the emphasis squarely on guitars that ring, squeal, and radiate shimmering waves of color,


With the Pumpkins smashed once and for all, Billy Corgan sets sail for new waters on this free-ranging disc -- and ends up making some mighty interesting discoveries. Zwan's basic sound doesn't diverge all that much from that of the Pumpkins, with the emphasis squarely on guitars that ring, squeal, and radiate shimmering waves of color, particularly on "Baby, Let's Rock" and "Yeah," both of which resonate with the sort of wistful rock nostalgia that marked "1977." What's new is the tonal palette, however, since Corgan is flanked by a pair of guitarists who take off in opposite directions before converging on each song's core: Between the angular strumming of Matt Sweeney (formerly of Chavez) and the pointillist interjections of Dave Pajo (the guitar guru whose work in Slint launched a thousand indie bands), Corgan wails soulfully, even subtly, nicely abetted by the sweet vocal backing of bassist Paz Lechantin (of A Perfect Circle). Where Corgan used to bemoan things lost, he now sounds like a man intent on praising things found: faith, happiness, and even, seemingly, a profound sense of spirituality. That last element is most evident on a 15-minute medley comprising the album's densely layered title track and an emotion-drenched take on the traditional spiritual "Jesus, I Have Taken Up My Cross" (during which Corgan intones the word "reborn" like a mantra and sings enthusiastically that "God and Heaven are all my own"). There's more corporeal contentment as well, as heard in the blissed-out "Honestly" and the country-flavored album closer "Come with Me." Those who pine for Billy's days of whine and neuroses won't walk away totally empty-handed, though, since the spare, glacially paced "Of a Broken Heart" makes the possibility of death-by-divorce sound eerily plausible. As sonically daunting as most of Corgan's previous work, Mary, Star of the Sea spends at least as much energy in laying bare the singer's heart, and for Billy Corgan, it's a surprising and gratifying evolution.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Stephen Thomas Erlewine
It was generally acknowledged that Billy Corgan wasn't just the heart of Smashing Pumpkins, he was their architect, their musical director, and dictator, responsible for every sonic detail of their records and sometimes creating it all on his own. So, when he ended the band in 2000, it seemed a little baffling because he could have carried on with the group forever, since it was his band, and he was responsible for not just their densely layered sound, but also for how the Pumpkins painted themselves into a dark, murky corner with their final album, MACHINA. Remarkably, by breaking up the band, Corgan revitalized himself with Zwan, a supergroup conglomerate that functions more like a band than Smashing Pumpkins, as their superb debut, Mary Star of the Sea, illustrates. Usually, a supergroup winds up as a lumbering, ad-hoc creation that never sounds as good as it reads on paper, but Zwan clicks, partially because Corgan lets his bandmates function as equal partners. As well they should -- by cherry-picking guitarist David Pajo from Slint, guitarist Matt Sweeney from Chavez, and bassist Paz Lenchantin from A Perfect Circle, while retaining Pumpkins drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, he's assembled a nimble, muscular, adventurous group who don't flash their virtuosity, but can take his musical ideas further than his past group. And, yes, Zwan does recall Smashing Pumpkins, primarily because Corgan's voice and his favored method of layering guitars is so distinctive, but he has never sounded this bright, colorful, or free; he has never sounded like he's having so much fun making music. This joyful spirit surges throughout Mary Star of the Sea, even during its many intricate instrumental sections, and it's hard not to get swept up in the momentum, especially since it's married to his best set of songs since Siamese Dream. More than any album since that, it suggests the expansiveness of Corgan's musical vision (Mellon Collie sometimes sagged in its messiness), but there's a generosity here never heard in the Pumpkins, something that comes both from Corgan's writing and his interaction with his new band, which makes Mary Star of the Sea a delight to hear.
Spin Magazine - Chuck Klosterman
[Corgan] has more ambition than Ayn Rand, and ambition goes a long way. (8)
Entertainment Weekly - David Browne
Mary Star of the Sea has a sharp zestiness and power that have been missing from Corgan's work for some time. The three guitarists shred and wail as if in tribute to old Boston records; the rhythm section has the dark, driving buzz of vintage new wave. (A-)

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Warner Bros Mod Afw


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Mary Star of the Sea 4.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Zwan, Billy Corgan's baby since the breakup of the Smashing Pumpkins, is a mixed success. The album is more radio-friendly than anything of the Pumpkins, with Billy's (guitar, vocals) voice more mellow and tempered by that of Paz (bass, vocals) and obviously influenced by Euro and J-Pop. The guitar trio is a sonic overload, but a welcome one as the complexities are intricately blended to create an intense package of harmony. Yet, for old Smashing Pumpkins fans, the edge and the angst seem to be gone, making for a rather bland and almost chipper sound compared to the dark and contemplative tastes of the Pumpkins. It is a bit of a disapointment in this regard, as Billy's depression and brooding always seemed to produce intrinsically deep lyrics and emotive sounds. For the old-school Pumpkins fan, Zwan may sound superficial, albeit refined.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Abandoning the juvenile teen angst of the Smashing Pumpkins, Billy Corgan has birthed a beautiful group, resonant and melodic. Driven by a new outlook on life, it is obvious in his music as well. The whole allbum shows a new motivation, be it love, faith, or hope. Whatever it is, Zwan has a new, driving sound that will bring many people to a new form of sonic relaxation.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Tho' ZWAN has been billed as more of a collaborative effort than the Pumpkins, where Billy reigned supreme, Zwan is still mostly Corgan, with his signature vocals and guitar stylings ever present and ringing in the sonic eruption that his fans have come to expect. Musically, the addition of Sweeney and Pajo give some additional six-string virtuosity for Billy to bounce his solos off of (nothing from James Iha, who in his own subtle, understated way made the Pumpkins more poignant). The best addition to the mix is Paz (does Billy EVER work with male bassists). Where D'Arcy capably filled the rhythm slot in the Pumpkins, Lezchantin's talent surpasses the Pumpkins and her sweet harmonies bring the emotion of the songs deeper than Billy could have imagined when he wrote them. As a devout Pumpkin-head, I waited in eager anticipation of Mary's release, yet I steeled myself against an expected disappointment. It's just too hard to not expect greatness from Corgan. The album, while not Billy's greatest work, is certainly a far journey from disappointing. It has the familiarity of the Pumpkins yet it is so much more optimistic. Just as all other humans must grow with their collective experiences, so too, we can tell with ZWAN, did Corgan grow even more spiritual and mystic. Sure there are sad themes, but there are also emotions that make you want to lift your chin and raise your arms to the heavens with elation. I can easily recommend this album to anyone who truly appreciated the Smashing Pumpkins and Corgan's canon of work, and to anyone unfamiliar with the Pumpkins (who could that be?) who enjoys multi-textured harmonies and great rock. And as a last note, keeping Jimmy Chamberlin in the fold was a no-brainer: he is easily the greatest rock drummer of the 90s and beyond.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Billy never fails to produce the goods. "Mary Star of the Sea" is an epic achievement that deserves all the recognition it can get. Sounding like Adore-era Pumpkins, Billy and Jimmy tackle the mainstream once again- with the help of some friends (not enemies) of moedern music. The triple guitar overtures courtesy of Matt Sweeney and David Pajo provide a more 'layered' sound. While the soft vocals and sweet harmonies accredited to rock queen Paz Lenchantin (from a Perfect Cirlce)gives Billy's new sound charm and sophistication. Despite some intial concerns that whoever mastered the ablum had messed it up, or whoever recorded it used a second rate mic and hadn't heard of Pro Tools clipped peak restoration, loyal Pumpkin's listeners (of the Machina era) will be well aware of Billy's on going efforts to mimic the natural distorted sound of live performance in the studio. I like it. The stunner on this album is the title track, "Jesus I/ Mary Star of the Sea"- you need to crank it up and enjoy the 14 minutes of rock sensationalism at it's best!
Guest More than 1 year ago
It is purely the talent of corgan with a new name and a slightly more up-beat view. It is truly rare to find albums that one can listen to all the way through with having to press the skip button at least twice. Highly recommended record to add to any alternative rock collection.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is simply fantastically produced music by some of the greatest musicians around. BC clearly benefits from collaborating with artists like these. The album is melodic while also enormously creative. The Jesus I/Mary Star of Sea is one I listen to over, and over, and over, and over again. For enthusiasts, it will remind you of the Why Am I So Tired song from Earphoria. I prefer to listen to the Zwan album on my sound-cancelling headphones. I have never taken drugs, but this has to be like getting high. Hang on, I'm putting back Zwan in the player right now...
Guest More than 1 year ago
billy corgan has started a lighter, less depressed sound that the smashing pumpkins had. some smashing pumpkins fans might not want want to get this album if that is what you enjoyed in them.
Guest More than 1 year ago
IF you like the pumpkins you'll probly like this. It sounds to me like the same old pumpkins only Billy Corgan doesn't seem depressed like on mellon collie and the infinite sadness.
Guest More than 1 year ago
An album where Billy Corgan smiles and turns Gospel Hymns into raucus rock n roll romps into the world of layered guitars and neo-prog rock may not sound promising, but give the new band Zwan a chance. You'll thank yourself with a cigarette afterwards. They rock out, despite the implications of their name, but retain the general joviality of their namesake. it's feel good dream pop at its blistering best. try "honestly" and "yeah!" and tell me you're not in love.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This album is the freshest, most exciting thing I have heard since the Red Hot Chili Peppers produced By The Way. Billy Corgan brings along all that is best about how he makes music, but he does it with a truly superb group of artists. Jimmy on drums blew my mind. I am still not sure how he does it, and I am a drummer. Move over Neal Peart, you've been out done. Period. The whole album is a winner. This is not one of those "I hope it has a least a few good songs so I don't feel cheated." records. I cannot heap enough praise. I hope there will be more incarnations of Zwan.