In 2001, Billy Corgan, Smashing Pumpkins drummer/sidekick Jimmy Chamberlain, and members of Slint, Tortoise, Chavez, Toto, and A Perfect Circle, and launched Zwan, a Tin Machine-like “this is a real band, mannnnnnn” supergroup. (OK, maybe no one from Toto was involved.) The band released one album, Mary Star of the Sea, in 2003, before breaking up.
To my ears, in limited exposure, Zwan sounded a lot like Smashing Pumpkins. To my eyes, the bassist was a notch hotter. Until now, I had no idea the band’s full name was initially True Poets of Zwan. That fact notwithstanding, is it time we revisit Zwan for consideration of a Critical Upgrade, wouldn’t you agree?
For starters, check out the unabashed Winner Rock on display in the following video for “Lyric.” I always thought that Corgan’s ability to rally the troops was his best quality, and damn if I don’t feel like marching along with this rally!
Here’s an epic-length live clip. It’s pretty ballsy for a then-modern-day band that’s working outside the accepted “jam band” norms. The guitar heroics aren’t too shabby. There are some particularly strong moments, beginning at the 00:07 mark and running through the 01:30, 02:40, 06:52, and 12:00 marks. Scenes of Deep Audience Acknowledgment are also worth admiring, such as at 02:28 and 12:55. Heavy!
In looking back on this unfulfilled period in Billy Corgan’s evolution, I’m appreciating the man’s respect – and even yearning – for The Power and Glory of Rock. When a Townsman recently asked if we’d have rather been left, Corgan-less, in the early ’90s with nothing but flannel, I think this triumphant live appearance is what was meant. You think some modern band with a name like Snow Patrol could deliver on rock’s promise the way Zwan could on a good day?
Here’s another live clip of the band covering The Beatles‘ “Don’t Let Me Down.” Here’s a tidbit I learned on the Zwan entry in Wikipedia that blows my mind: along with the formation of True Poets of Zwan, Corgan had an acoustic version of the band in the works, called Djali Zwan. The recording of the Djali Zwan album was to have been filmed “Let It Be-style,” according to Corgan in some world-beating interview of years past! Sadly, this film never made it to the big screen, but the mind reels at what the bassist, playing electric piano in this clip, might have worn for the filming of these would-have-been-historic sessions!
Now you have to know what Djali Zwan sounded like, don’t you? Although a full album was never released, a few tracks were released on the soundtrack of the film Spun. Don’t ask me what’s going on in the following clip.
All good things must pass, and Zwan’s 2003 world tour got cut short as the inevitable occurred. A philosophical Billy shared his thoughts on the band’s breakup with Chicago’s WGN:
“I really enjoyed my experience with Zwan, but at the end of the day, without that sense of deeper family loyalty, it just becomes like anything else,” Corgan said. “Our attitude in the Pumpkins was, it was a do or die proposition, and that got us through all the hard times we went through, particularly with the Pumpkins where we had two members with serious drug problems.”
In the following months and years, Corgan would not be so philosophical when discussing the band’s breakup, throwing down the well-work accusations of drugs, intra-band member infidelity, and Blackberry tampering!
Time will tell whether the latest incarnation of Smashing Pumpkins can finish the job that Zwan began to finish when that band picked up where the Pumpkins first left off.