Whether or not you find the atomic-powered guitar-pop on Mary Star of the Sea, the debut album by former Smashing Pumpkin Billy Corgan's new band Zwan, refreshing in its wide-eyed enthusiasm and lack of neo-goth melodrama, you've gotta hand it to Corgan for mixing things up. The Pumpkins had a long ride, one of the longest in alt-rock, so it's sort of cool that instead of kicking back and, I don't know, shopping for expensive hats, Corgan roped in a couple of indie-rock ringers to help rebuild the machine that made him a very rich man. (Though, really, I can't imagine anyone not finding Zwan refreshing. I mean, by the time the Pumpkins released that Internet-only Machina II thing, who in the world had time to wade through all the purple prose and heavy metal worship that had dulled the edges of Corgan's writing? Oh, right: Internet nerds.) I've not caught a Zwan set yet, but they played across the street from my apartment building a couple of weeks ago, and when we tried to go see a late show of Bringing Down the House at the movie theater also across the street from my apartment building, the sidewalk was choked with concertgoers taking their sweet time bidding Billy goodbye. That was actually kind of a nuisance, but I bet it was nice for Zwan.

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