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The Jimmy Chamberlin Complex

The Jimmy Chamberlin Complex - Life Begins Again
(Sanctuary Records)
2 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: Mar. 31, 2005

Review by Andy Argyrakis

Any key member from a blockbuster-selling group that takes on the full time solo route is bound to be assessed with an even more microscopic eye than the average artist. What will they sound like in comparison to the act from which they came from? Will they be able to sell the same amount or earn equal acclaim? How will the longtime fans react and is there a chance for others to be reeled in who would've never given their previous band a chance? In many situations these questions would be fair and somewhat easy to answer, but in the case of this one time Smashing Pumpkins and Zwan member, they're all a little bit more complex (no pun intended).
Not only have each of those groups demised before Chamberlin made his sidestep, but they also fell into the alternative rock vein, characterized in both instances around Billy Corgan's high pitched moans and wails. This time out, the beat keeper takes a totally different direction, leaning partially towards instrumental approach that lands roughly somewhere between jazz-fusion and progressive rock. It's a somewhat complicated puzzle diehard Pumpkins followers may not have ever predicted a decade ago, though it's certainly got the message boards rumbling. Much of that has to do with Corgan's participation on one cut, the mellow and unassuming "Loki Cat," which could easily have made it into Zwan's catalogue had that operation leaned in a lounged out alt-pop direction.
However, that's the only overt instance when Chamberlin looks at his former self, instead highlighting his finely detailed drumming and precise execution (qualities lacking in the Pumpkins' starting with Adore through its break-up). "Streetcrawler" fuses together a scattered, finger-snapping pattern with a rousing prog influenced undercurrent, sounding like something King Crimson might put out in more modern times. Similar nods are given in the electric guitar accentuated "Cranes of Prey" and the dreamy (though unfortunately elevator worthy) "P.S.A." A more jazzy attitude encompasses the subtle and easygoing "Time Shift" (a la Steve Smith and Vital Information) while turning in an almost jammy route on "Owed to Darryl" (think Medeski, Martin and Wood).
Though Chamberlin is finally expressing himself with complete creative control, it can be a curse at times sure to confuse the listener. One wonders what he's trying to prove with the sleepy ballad "Lullaby," which features vocals by a significantly aged Bill Medley of Righteous Brothers fame. Then there's the sinister stylings and pleading cries of guest Billy Mohler that dominate "Newerwaves," which when played back to back with former make the record sound nearly schizophrenic. Having such glaring incongruence, along with such a juggling act of the aforementioned intentions, makes Life Begins Again a tough sell amongst old fans while its equally unlikely to please jazz or progressive purists. Though all would probably agree it's nice to have Chamberlin maintaining his musical quests, hopefully next time the vision will be refined beyond trying to be all things to all people.

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