24 April 2008

'Jesus, I/Mary Star Of The Sea'

OK, after a brief hiatus with a steady diet of nothing but Dëthkløk and Viva La Bam, I'm back and ready for action so on to business.

Billy Corgan--Svengali, fan of pro wrestling, lover of comely female bassists (I mention that only because I'm jealous). He is an accomplished lyricist, poet, and musician with a keen sense of melding Prog Rock vastness with saccharine-laced Pop melodies. He is also notoriously difficult to work with, and the fact that all of the incarnations (save a one album) of the Smashing Pumpkins, Zwan, and Corgan's solo material were just variations of Corgan and drummer Jimmy Chamberlain are a huge testament to that fact. Still, the man knows his craft.

Zwan, a mini-Alt super group, was a brilliantly jubilatious (if that's not a word it should be) band and much too short-lived. In less than a two year period between Pumpkincarnations (another word that should be) Zwan formed, recorded, toured, began in-fighting, and broke up. They spawned one album, the amazing Mary Star Of The Sea, which produced at least one radio-friendly single, Honestly (plus it has the wonderful Paz Lenchantin):
The album featured several other songs in a similar vein (Lyric, El Sol) that reflected Corgan's new found spiritual enlightenment.

The highlight came in the form of the titular track, Jesus, I/Mary Star Of The Sea, which is really two songs in one. At over 14 minutes, the song is epic to say the least. The first part, Jesus, I, is paraphrased from a 1833 hymn by Henry F. Lyte (and Matthew 16:24).

Jesus, I've taken my cross
All to leave and follow Thee...
I'm destitute, despised, forsaken
All to leave and follow Thee...

After several minutes of a chiming guitar loop, the music starts to swell into the religious frenzy of a mosh pit with the repeating lines, Jesus...reborn..., which give way to the rest of the hymn:

So perish every fond ambition
God and trouble are all I've known
Yet how rich is my condition
God and heaven are all my own...

The music continues with an onslaught of soloing guitars in an almost free form jam. This continues (perhaps a bit too long) until it reaches a plateau of beautiful chord construct. The tempo shifts to a slower pace but once more explodes though this time with more restraint and purpose. Corgan returns to vocals once again at almost 9 minutes into the song with some of the best lyrics he's ever penned (well, at least they are my favourite):

Rooms full of salt, fault my pluck
And a poets charm so far, ever far
Little stars that burn the holes in my soul...
And everything just feels like rain
The road we're on, the things we crave
And everything just feels like rain
The nights i sleep, what's left to dream
When everything feels like rain...
Drift as I dive, find the deep
Out of reach of all light
Stars, ever far
Listless tides along the changing shore...

The song's languid rush finally gives way and seems to fly off into space or drift out in the tide. This track is certainly a journey.

And just because, here are those comely female bassists and their Fender P-basses:

D'arcy Wretzky

Melissa Auf Der Maur

Paz Lenchantin

Ginger Reyes


Zwan - Jesus, I/Mary Star Of The Sea

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