Jimmy Chamberlain Complex - Life Begins Again


It's never less than interesting and at times you just have to applaud the musicianship, but it does seem to go on for ever.




"Drums Please!" That's the intro to DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh (Will Smith) Prince's laid back early 90's classic Summertime, but it would be apt to place it in front of this album. As I have done. You see, Jimmy Chamberlain was well known in most circles as the drummer from the Smashing Pumpkins. He then went on to be the drummer that was fired from the Smashing Pumpkins. After that he became the drummer that was re-hired by the Smashing Pumpkins and then, after the Smashing Pumpkins dismantled entirely, he followed Mister Corgan's lead once again and for a short period he became the drummer in Swan that was also the drummer in the Smashing Pumpkins with Billy. Lately he's simply been referred to as just Jimmy Chamberlain, the former drummer of the Smashing Pumpkins, because adding Swan into the mix just made things a bit complicated.


Well, look what arrived on the doorstep! An album by the Jimmy Chamberlain Complex. Could it be? Yes, it's the same Jimmy Chamberlain, former drummer of the Smashing Pumpkins. It even says so on the sticker placed on the front cover!


May I just pause here for a second and ask a quick question?


Is all this "former drummer of the Smashing Pumpkins" stuff getting a bit annoying yet? Thought so. But you see, every single review, or interview, or any single mention of Mr Chamberlain comes complete with that sentence after his name. OK, sometimes my fellow journos get clever and say something like, the former drummer of the Smashing Pumpkins, Jimmy Chamberlain.... (See what they did there?) but surely the guy should be allowed to step out of Corgan's shadow and stand on his own two feet? You'd think that now he's got his own band together he'd start to be described as Jimmy Chamberlain, drummer, musician, but no, that's not how things work is it? I suppose it's like Graham Coxon, who will always be the former guitarist of Blur, rather than Graham Coxon full stop. Should I be getting as annoyed? It's just handy for giving people a frame of reference, after all. It's also a handy marketing ploy, because the name Jimmy Chamberlain Complex doesn't ring many bells in people's heads, but "former drummer of the Smashing Pumpkins" makes people think, "Ooh, Smashing Pumpkins? I quite like them. Maybe I'll check this out."


Well, if you've come here thinking that you may like this because you used to like the Smashing Pumpkins, then there's a chance you might, but remember that Jimmy was the drummer in that band and not the singer. So be prepared to listen to some drums. Lots of them.


I was a big Smashing Pumpkins fan, I think it's important that I admit that here, and I was always impressed with Jimmy's frantic, military style playing. I've often listed him in my top five drummers of all time list whenever I've been feeling a bit High Fidelity-ish and this album goes some way to cementing his place in the top three. But I'm not so sure if this is album is something I'm going to spend a lot of time listening to, unlike the old Pumpkin's stuff and the criminally underrated Swan album.


Technically, it's brilliant. There's no doubting the quality of the musicianship. Jimmy certainly knows how to pound those skins, but essentially this feels like a bunch of drum solos placed back to back with a little bit of sparse instrumentation from friends to accompany them and set each track apart from each other. I used to enjoy Jimmy's solos live, when placed in the midst of about 25 Pumpkins songs, but I don't think I'd have been as impressed if he'd played five or six of them back to back.


This is a rock album, but it seems to have merged grungy, heavy rock with freestyle jazz, which is a mixture that I certainly didn't think there was a large market for. Did you? It's never less than interesting and at times you just have to applaud the musicianship, but it does seem to go on for ever. Rather like sitting in a bar watching freestyle jazz musicians!


I'm not sure if I'm getting this across correctly or not, because although it does go on a bit it's still a very good album, especially when it's more song based. Those tunes seem to be reigned in a bit and structured in a way that I find more palatable. In fact, I'd advise anybody who was a fan of the Pumpkins to buy this if only to listen to Loki Cat, on which Billy Corgan lends his scratchy vocal talents. It's a fabulous tune and one that all Pumpkin fans will rate highly I'm sure. I think it's an album that most Pumpkin fans will find of some interest, but I think the people who'll get the most enjoyment out of it will be Beret wearing, pipe smoking, beard stroking jazz enthusiasts who will probably sit around discussing it's merits in smoky rooms and saying words like 'admirable' and phrases like 'interesting fusion of styles'. It's lack of mainstream appeal, however, will probably force the rest of you to just ignore completely. Which is a shame.


Keep on thumping Jimmy.


Words : Damian Leslie