Review Summary: Once a Pumpkin, once a Zwanling, Jimmy Chamberlin takes a step aside and proves himself to be, above all else, a talented and ingenuious musician.
The Smashing Pumpkins
dawned across the 90's rock scene and took the majority of the decade within their hands, soaring quickly to success and declining almost as dramatically. One of the more notable of incidents was drummer Jimmy Chamberlin's removal from the band during the Mellon Collie tour and his absence from the following Pumpkins' album, Adore
. Thankfully this was not the end of the road for Chamberlin, as amends were made and he was welcomed back as what would prove to be a more focused component for the Pumpkins' final record release Machina: The Machines of God
before their initial break.
It was anticipated that Billy Corgan
, who was and still is widely criticized as an egomaniac, would continue in the pursuit of an individual music career, but perhaps it should have been expected from Jimmy Chamberlin as well. Beside providing his brilliant drumming to Zwan
, the short-lived brain child of Corgan, in 2004 Chamberlin and a number of friends pursued the opportunity to exude his true musical genius with Life Begins Again
. As opposed to the raw and ever-changing sound of many of the previous Pumpkins releases, Jimmy and Billy Mohler, an L.A. based songwriter (one that also auditioned for Zwan), combine forces to create a unique fusion of progressive rock and jazz revolving around Chamberlin's signature drumming. The sound is one that, though likely to draw parallels from similar efforts, defines itself on each and every track, even with such a diverse crowd of participants involved (including Corgan himself).
One of the more interesting aspects of this album is not only the equal diluting of instrumental to vocally arranged tracks but also the lack of a single designated singer all together. In fact, though Chamberlin is responsible for all of the lyrical content (aside from Lullaby
) on the record, the album features a number of vocalists. Co-mastermind Mohler throws his two cents in by standing in on vocals on the sighing, melodically drifting Newerwaves
. Rob Dickinson of Catherine Wheel
takes on the explosive title track Life Begins Again
and the meandering Love is Real
, Bill Medley of the Righteous Brothers
guests on the appropriately named, dreamy Lullaby
, and Billy Corgan
makes his appearance on the quiet but enchanting Loki Cat
. Thankfully, rather than creating a fractured sense of stability, the separate vocalists add a quality like that of a story being told, with the album as its soundtrack of course, which is really quite endearing and engaging.
The instrumental segments of this album are noteworthy as well, which for the most part act almost as extended stand-in interludes that manage not only to keep the attention, but help to lead the listener where the album wants them to follow. From the very get go, Streetcrawler
wastes no time exemplifying that Life Begins Again
is its own entity, flooding the senses with the precision that is Chamberlin coupled with a mellow, jazzy Rhodes piano (played by Adam Benjamin). Though the guitar, played by Sean Woolstenhulme, was not an initial intention for the album, the last minute decision was a wise one as it, in many cases, expands the sonic dimensions spreading forth within the record. At times it is a reserved compliment, as in the spacious, lingering PSA
and in others rises to the forefront to deliver memorable jazz and rock heavy riffs like the one in the monstrous thundering of Cranes of Prey
For something that seems to come completely out of left field, Life Begins Again
is an incredible surprise that collectively defines the musicianship of Jimmy Chamberlin that may or may not have been overlooked in the past. It is evident that Chamberlin is dedicated to his art and passionate about expressing it and such enthusiasm alone is reason enough to respect any musician. It doesn't hurt at all that the fruits of his creativity just happen to rise higher than perhaps they were intended to, either. This album is very, very highly recommended for any fan of the Smashing Pumpkins
, even if only for the fact that Billy Corgan
's presence foreshadows the possibilities of solely the two, or to ponder over what Zwan
may have sounded like if Billy Mohler had been chosen instead. Regardless of the if's
, the fact remains that Life Begins Again
is a superb album that succeeds in its aspiration, spoken in the words of Chamberlin himself, "For me, music is a testament that if you acknowledge the vibrations going on around you, it’s possible to reproduce that in to an art form.
Cranes of Prey