Zwan Mary Star of the Sea

Billy Corgan is for some odd reason billed with the surname "Burke" in the liner notes of Zwan's debut outing. Perhaps it's a flimsy attempt to diminish the sense that Zwan is little more than a solo project to stroke the ex-Pumpkins' ego. But he's not fooling anyone; it's still all about Billy the Kid. The proof of this is in the production pudding, evidenced by new band members Matt Sweeney (Precious Moments, Chavez), David Pajo (Slint), Paz Lenchantin (A Perfect Circle) having their respective talents muffled under a sea of Corgan guitars and whines, and Jimmy Chamberlin's drumming reduced to monotonous tic-toc. Yet monotony seems to be the theme here, variety apparently not the spice of Zwan life; these shiny arena rock nuggets all blend into one another, with small moments of catchiness sprinkled in here and there ("Honestly," "Baby Let's Rock!"). It seems Corgan is trying to set himself in a pre-Machina time machine, attempting to relive the glory days of Gish/Siamese Dream's ballsy, crunchy musicality and even highlight his classic rock influences. He's definitely not living in today, but he sure as hell would like to live in "Today." This forced regression comes across as - well, forced, and he's reverted to a purgatorial space between mediocre, MOR adult contemporary and childish Fisher Price pop. But it's safe territory, this limbo; there's nothing offensively bad here, and you can't go wrong with the loud-soft ballad formula when you have the songwriting experience and inherent talent of Corgan. If you're a Pumpkins aficionado, you'll be in cozy with this, as long as you skip over the 14-minute, messiah complex-acknowledgement "Jesus, I" and ignore the cheesy, blindingly retro Yellow Submarine-esque album art. (Reprise)