Jimmy Chamberlin Complex
Life Begins Again
First Appeared in The Music Box, January 2005, Volume 12, #1
Written by John Metzger
Save for a brief period when his substance abuse problems caused him to be tossed from the Smashing Pumpkins’ line-up, Jimmy Chamberlin has spent the better part of the past 17 years supporting Billy Corgan’s various endeavors. With his longtime friend currently following his own muse, however, Chamberlin found himself in need of something to do, but instead of taking the easy route and searching for session work, he opted to form his own collective: the newly unveiled Jimmy Chamberlin Complex.
Granted, the notion of side projects and recorded output from rock-oriented drummers isn’t an entirely new concept. Ringo Starr, Ginger Baker, Mick Fleetwood, Bill Bruford, and Mickey Hart are just a few of those who have tried their hand at crafting solo careers outside the confines of the bands that brought them fame and fortune, but their collective pursuits understandably have run the gamut from utterly magnificent to downright forgettable and largely have been less lucrative. While Chamberlin’s debut Life Begins Again falls somewhere in the middle of this wide-ranging spectrum, the album contains enough intrigue and imagination to lend credence to the idea that this may be the path that he was meant to follow. Touching upon everything from shoe-gazing anthems (Newerwaves) to dreamy, Pumpkins-tinged rock (Loki Cat), and from metallic, prog-rock thunder (P.S.A.) to a myriad of fusion-laced grooves (Streetcrawler and Owed to Darryl, in particular), the effort is, at times, a tad frustrating, though more often than not, it also is thoroughly absorbing. Not surprisingly, it’s Chamberlin’s unique style of percussion that propels the material. By injecting a colorful, jazz-tinged flair into his potent, arena-rock pounding, he effortlessly feeds the fires that blow through the strongest tunes while fanning the embers that glow within the lesser ones.
Yet, what may be the most surprising aspect about Life Begins Again is the discovery that Chamberlin is a capable lyricist. Throughout the collection, he muses about the positive vibrations of spirituality and love that pulled him out of a downward spiral and gave him the strength to channel his energy back into his career. The end result is that his rebirth — as both a person and an artist — becomes the glue that binds together these 11 disparate tracks.
The lone downside, then, is the Jimmy Chamberlin Complex’s lack of a regular vocalist. Corgan is his customarily cool self on the collection’s highlight Loki Cat while bass player Billy Mohler and Catherine Wheel’s Rob Dickinson are adequate on their respective cuts, but Righteous Brother Bill Medley’s legendary, soulful croon struggles mightily within the drably lit drone of Lullabye to Children.
>Still, Life Begins Again retains a certain charm, and as a whole, it folds together as something far greater than a simple vanity project. Its sinewy textures confirm what many forever have suspected about Chamberlin — that he could be just as comfortable within a jazz-oriented framework as he is within the rock world. With any luck, he’ll have many more opportunities to further his explorations and continue to knock down the boundaries that typically divide one artistic avenue from another. ½
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2005 The Music Box