February 10, 2005

Jimmy Chamberlin Review

4 out of 5 stars

As I spend extortionate amounts of money on music and films every year, it seems only right that I should share my knowledge, insight and opinions with you, dear reader. If you like your entertainment to be quirky, challenging and innovative you may even treat this page as your gospel and eschew trashy magazines centred on pop culture.

So, here we have the first major release of the year (if you ignore the Feeder album, which was frankly disappointing). Many will recognise Jimmy Chamberlin’s name from his days as the Smashing Pumpkins’ and subsequently Zwan’s drummer, but this time he has taken the helm for his first solo effort, Life Begins Again. Although a ‘solo’ effort, he is helped out by multi-instrumentalist Billy Mohler and some guest appearances from the likes of Billy Corgan and Rob Dickinson (for those who remember the Catherine Wheel, his own solo effort is apparently nearing completion).

It has to be said that overall the album is something of a success. It opens with Streetcrawler, a driving instrumental featuring a quirky solo, but quickly shows its diversity with the somewhat more pop title track. PSA is a long dark instrumental that can only be described as ‘cool’, while Loki Cat’s delicate harmonies reveal a softer side to the album. Cranes of Prey is a highlight of the album, its dark melodies perfectly formed. Love is Real once again features Rob’s vocals, although not to as great an effect as Life Begins Again. Perhaps the most experimental track on the album is Owed to Darryl, an instrumental that features what sounds like a touch-tone telephone solo… Although it doesn’t always succeed, you can’t fault them for trying. Newerwaves is essentially a summer song, with it’s bright, dreamy chorus almost bringing back a Jesus and Mary Chain moment. It is also the only song to feature a drum solo, even though this opportunity isn’t really fully exploited. Time Shift makes the album’s formula clear, returning to another instrumental. It isn’t as quirky as you might expect from the title, but it is short at succinct. It’s followed by another departure, Lullabye, which is slow burning and very calming. Having influences more from the blues spectrum, it may lack in excitement but it certainly makes up for it by being a nice relaxing song to finish the album with. Only here we come to my only real qualm with the album, the Loki Cat reprise, which is essentially the beginning of Loki Cat faded out after just over a minute. It just seems like something of a messy way to finish an otherwise extremely competent album.

It will not necessarily appeal to anyone who was a fan of Chamberlin’s past glories, but anyone who likes skilfully crafted music, which challenges at times without becoming a difficult listen (apart from the touch-tone moment) then this album is well worth the buy. The bonus video on the disc is worth a watch to get an idea of the recording process, although it would have been nice to have a couple more tracks instead. It’s certainly at least as impressive as a certain Dave Grohl’s first effort post Nirvana, so we should be able to expect more good things to come too.

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