[Note: Portions of this review contain information received while conducting a (non-recorded) phone interview with drummer Jimmy Chamberlin in the early afternoon of June 13, 2011. The recording device malfunctioned so I did my best to remember and write down highlights suitable for this article.]
Two years after leaving the Smashing Pumpkins—again but on his own terms this time—to pursue a new musical venture, Jimmy Chamberlin, one of the best rock drummers in the world, is back with a new band, Skysaw. Originally called This, the trio of Chamberlin (drums), Mike Reina (main vocals, keys/piano, guitar) and Anthony Pirog (main guitarist) changed it to Skysaw because, as Chamberlin told me in a 30-minute phone interview a couple of Mondays ago, there was already a California band with that name. There was also concern that "no one would ever be able to find us" in an Internet search anyway, he said with a chuckle or two. So to make everyone happy, the band, thanks to Reina, renamed itself after a Brian Eno song ("Sky Saw"). And the rest, they say, is history.
Great Civilizations (Dangerbird Records) is the name of Skysaw's long-awaited debut record, and it consists of 10 tracks. I say it's "long-awaited" because, if the name of this new LP sounds familiar to some Chamberlin fans, that may because you probably saw or heard about its original November 1, 2010 release on a couple of digital outlets, including Amazon.com as a six-track digital-only album under the original band name, This, before it was immediately taken off those sites in order to come up with a new band name. It was a wise decision, even though it meant waiting for the record's release another six, then seven months (but with four more tracks this time around).
As to who played the bass parts on Great Civilizations, the ex-Pumpkins/Zwan/Jimmy Chamberlin Complex drummer told me that Reina handled them. Chamberlin really appreciated and was pleased with how perfectly Reina's bass parts filled out the sound of these songs, with what he described as (Pink Floyd-era) Roger Waters-like big-sounding bass lines.
You can hear this type of loud bass action at the start of the record, on lead single and lead-off track "No One Can Tell," which starts off with drums, backwards guitar from Pirog and Reina's bass, followed by the latter individual's gargled, psychedelic vocals. On this excellent, mostly guitar-heavy rocker, Reina sings about being a stranger and complete unknown to everyone. But with this record and on all the tour dates that have already and will continue to go with it in the coming days and months, that won't be the case anymore.