Jimmy Chamberlin spent years as one of the shadowy, talented musicians who backed Billy Corgan in the Smashing Pumpkins. What has Chamberlin been doing since Corgan’s second band Zwan broke up in 2003? Apparently crafting a remarkably good solo debut with a new band: the Jimmy Chamberlin Complex’s “Life Begins Again.” It seems to have begun again for Chamberlin, anyway.
Anyone expecting the panoramic hard rock of the Pumpkins is going to be disappointed, because it is nowhere to be found. Chamberlin’s sound is more of a complex, jazzy art rock sound, heavy on the drums guitars, and brimming over with prog-rock vibes. It’s a kind of music that I haven’t heard before, especially since it strikes such a good balance between the rock instrumentation and jazz rhythms.
In a few songs, it sounds like Chamberlin and Co. are just jamming around, not sure what to play exactly — it’s interesting, but not nearly as tight as the other instrumentals. They are at their best when combining assured drumming, shifting guitar riffs and lustrous sonics, including a wonderfully weird Rhodes solo in the middle of jamming.
Chamberlin hasn’t totally left behind his musical past — there are still ties to the Pumpkins here. Ex-bandmate Billy Corgan sings in the spooky “Loki Cat,” and he also puts his formidable bass-playing skills to use. And Rob Dickinson of Catherine Wheel provides creepy vocals to the title song, sounding like someone calmly descending into an abyss. It’s hard not to get the shivers listening to this.
But the centerpiece of the album is Chamberlin’s own skills — most importantly, his drumming. Songs like “Streetcrawler” are basically Chamberlin’s drumming, dressed up in shifting and/or floaty guitars. “Life Begins Again” occasionally lacks musical direction, but it certainly doesn’t lack polish or enthusiasm.
In the debut for Jimmy Chamberlin and his new band, they embrace jazzy jams, rock and a bit of pop and metal. “Life Begins Again” has a few duds about two-thirds of the way through, but still ends up strong and richly atmospheric.