Jimmy Chamberlin Complex: The Parable

Photo courtesy of DL Media

Time has dulled the once vibrant approach of the Jimmy Chamberlin Complex.

When drummer Jimmy Chamberlin quit or was fired from the Smashing Pumpkins in 2009, he announced that he was going to focus his attention on the Jimmy Chamberlin Complex. This was good news. The Complex's 2005 debut Life Begins Again was freewheeling and colorful, filled to the brim with psychedelia, heavy pop, and heaping dose of post-rock. Billy Corgan was there, Rob Dickinson was there, even Bill Medley contributed to a track.

Jimmy Chamberlin Complex

The Parable

(Make Records)

Release Date: 17 Nov 2017

It was a strong and promising start, but the 12-year break that followed meant that Chamberlin had to rebuild his band from the ground up once again. The Parable, the Complex's long-awaited second album, throws out the template that worked so well on Life Begins Again and devotes all of its attention to more conventional bop with just a shade of the fusion left over from last time.

Guitarist Sean Woolstenhulme and bassist Billy Mohler remain from the previous lineup while pianist Randy Ingram and saxophonist Chris Speed join in to round things out. When it comes to contemporary jazz, Chris Speed has played with nearly everyone. When it comes to Woolstenhulme, Mohler is fooling absolutely no one when he says "Sean's never played a jazz gig in his life." They give him credit for "courage" in joining the band, even though his solo on The Parable's opener "Horus and the Pharaoh" sounds like he is genuinely out of his depth. The dead, disaffected guitar sound that is symptomatic of 21st-century indie rock creates an all-around numbing effect through The Parable's otherwise stellar originals. Some of his passages even sound like they were copied and pasted.

Fortunately, most of the other elements fall neatly into place. Speed strikes up a pretty good melody on "El Born", handing the piece off to Ingram for a sturdy solo. "Thoughts of Days Long Past" is The Parable's slow, thoughtful number that allows all five musicians to prolong each musical thought that happens to find its way into the studio. "Dance of the Grebe" seems to take a cue from Dave Holland's Conference of the Birds, using jazz to mimic certain aviary phenomenon. Says Chamberlin of the ritual; "The dance of the grebe is cool, right? If you've never seen it, you would never forget it. It's like, 'What the hell is that bird doing, man?'"

When it comes to Jimmy Chamberlin's own performances, all six tracks help to offer up more of what drew music fans to him all those years ago when Gish first appeared -- an uncanny control of his snare coupled with fills that paid nods to Keith Moon as well as Dennis Chambers. But context is everything, and The Parable feels like a muted version of what Chamberlin and his band are capable of. Somewhere in the press release is a mention of how Billy Mohler wants to make three more albums with the Complex this year. This is a splendid idea. They can, and need, to outdo The Parable.

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