Friday, February 04, 2005

Jimmy Chamberlin Complex - Life Begins Again CD Review

Jimmy Chamberlin is, no doubt, most well known for being a member of the pioneering alternative rock band The Smashing Pumpkins. To some fans of the Pumpkins, such as myself, he’ll be remembered as the one surrounded by trouble and mired with drug problems. After his ins and outs with the Pumpkins, and later after the band’s dissolution, Jimmy didn’t disappear from the music scene. Many of you will recall Zwan, which was Jimmy and Billy Corgan’s underwhelming follow-up to their days as Pumpkins. Now, a few years later, Jimmy is back again with a very spacey and eclectic new musical offering in Life Begins Again.

First off, if you’re expecting anything resembling The Smashing Pumpkins or Zwan, you are not going to find much here to fulfill your urges. True, there is one song featuring Billy Corgan—“Lokicat”—and there are a few driving alternative rock passages, such as can be found on “Cranes of Prey” and “Newerwaves,” but for the most part this disc is not going to be for fans of the Pumpkins. Having said that, if you give this release a genuine chance, you’ll find that it is actually a very well done, if a little self-indulgent, experimental space rock effort.

Many of the songs possess an airy feel to them in that they give the illusion of floating from one passage to the next. There are only vocals on a few tracks, so this is achieved almost completely through the changing of instrumentation styles and intricate soloing. At times, however, instead of keeping you aloft in a cloud of spacey sound, you are left feeling like you’ve listened to nothing more than an exercise in musical experimentation gone awry. A few tracks meander here and there aimlessly, which leaves these songs feeling empty and lacking meaning, but when a song comes together, watch out, because it’ll leave you in awe of its aural beauty.

There are two real standout tracks that deserve extra attention. The first is “Life Begins Again,” featuring Rob Dickinson of Catherine Wheel fame. It’s a real treat to hear Rob laying down some vocals again. It’s easily the strongest song on the disc, and it also showcases some great jazz influenced drumming from Jimmy. The other money track on this disc is “Lullaby to Children.” It probably would have more aptly been titled “Lullaby for Adults” since it is one of the more calming and beautiful songs to be found on this release and is definitely not geared towards a childish or immature musical taste.

In deciding if this cd is a good purchase or not, ask yourself two questions. First, am I looking for something similar to what Jimmy has done in the past? Second, how open are my musical tastes? If you answered “yes” to the first, then move along and go back to listening to Zwan or The Smashing Pumpkins. If you answered “pretty open” to the second question, snatch this cd off the shelves because you’re sure to enjoy it.

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