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Mary Star of the Sea

Release Date: 01.28.03
Record label: Reprise
Genre(s): Movies, Film Scores, Musicals, Etc.


by: bill aicher

I'll be the first to admit it: back in high school in the mid-90's my mindset was virtually exemplified by The Smashing Pumpkins. I was a late bloomer, latching onto the band during their Pisces Iscariot phase, my infatuation coming full-bloom with Melon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. "Muzzle" was my theme song.

With the release of Adore my infatuation faded, although looking back Adore is a mighty fine record, unlike the bloated, self-indulgent Melon Collie... Ah yes, how teen angst can cloud the mind.

Any way, when Smashing Pumpkins tried to regain the love of their fading fan adoration with the release of the uninspired Machina in 2000 it was too late, and The Smashing Pumpkins soon called it quits. The problem: when Adore came out, people wanted Machina and when Machina came out, people were ready for Adore. Such timing doesn't bode well for popular rock acts.

And that's the end of my history lesson on The Pumpkins, not that it so much a lesson as my own act of self-indulgence. But this is a review about a Billy Corgan fronted band, so a little self-indulgence is allowed.

Now, back to the reason you're reading this (hopefully you've stuck with me this far): Corgan's new outfit. In a nutshell you could say Zwan is Billy Corgan and a few friends (Slint/Tortoise guitarist Dave Pajo, Skunk guitarist Matt Sweeney, A Perfect Circle bassist Paz Lenchantin, and Corgan's old Pumpkins bandmate Jimmy Chamberlain on drums) rocking out, making music that sounds kind of like what would have happened if Smashing Pumpkins would have made an album between Siamese Dream and Melon Collie, had Corgan briefly shed his dour depression and embraced Christianity.

Because that's really what Mary Star of the Sea is; it's an honest rock album that doesn't try to be anything else. Sure the three guitar attack has been done in the past, so maybe they are a little bit like Chicago, but it doesn't really matter. I've peeked around at other reviews, and they really just don't seem to get it: with Zwan Corgan is just making rock music like he wants to make it, and it turns out pretty damn well.

Perhaps the most impressive part of the album (aside from the supurb production and nicely done guitar solos) is Corgan's new embrace of a positive outlook on life. Lyrics like "Whatever I can do / I will / cuz I'm good like that" (Settle Down) and "Baby I'm the greatest thing you've got / In a good way / I suppose" (Baby Let's Rock) may sound a bit awkward at first, but they're cute, and the next time around they're the lines you're looking most forward to. As little as some people will admit it, Corgan has always been a great songwriter, and with Mary Star of the Sea it's refreshing to see him extend those muscles beyond depression and angst.

So, hate Billy Corgan if you want. It really isn't going to change the album. And it isn't going to change my opinion of what I'd consider one of the better rock albums in my recent memory, and the best pop/rock album so far this year. 05-Feb-2003 9:57 PM