Turn on any modern rock radio station these days, and you’re likely to hear the unmistakable voices of either Chris Cornell, Kurt Cobain or Billy Corgan. No, you haven’t stepped into a time warp sending you back to 1994 – modern rock is just in the midst of a 1990s alterna-rock revival. Corgan is the latest to enter the fold with his latest project, Zwan.
Corgan, the singer/songwriter/tyrant responsible for catapulting the Smashing Pumpkins to fame and fortune, only to induce the band’s self-destruction in 2000, has assembled an all-star lineup for his latest venture. The new outfit features Corgan on guitar and vocals, Pumpkins drummer Jimmy Chamberlin, Paz Lenchantin of A Perfect Circle on bass and Matt Sweeney of Chavez and David Pajo of Slint and Tortoise on guitar. By recruiting already respected and talented new bandmates for Zwan, Corgan has created a band with more integrity than, say, the mega-merger of Cornell and the remaining members of Rage Against the Machine in Audioslave.
Zwan’s first full-length release, “Mary Star of the Sea,” succeeds because it is the first cohesive collaboration of equals Corgan has participated in since the Pumpkins’ “Siamese Dream.” In the liner notes to “Mary,” Corgan bills himself as “Billy Burke” – a Florida televangelist. Perhaps the name change is due to the songs on “Mary” being more upbeat, uplifting and straightforward than anything Corgan has done before. These songs are ready-made for rock radio and mix tapes exchanged between boyfriends and girlfriends. With song titles like “Baby Let’s Rock!” it’s a mystery as to whatever happened to the “Just a Rat in a Cage” Corgan, but on “Mary,” the sunnier Corgan is a welcome change.
[Alex Scordelis is definitely on the list, this time. So why don’t you just check it again.]