Album Review: James – All The Colours Of You (Virgin)
For me the name James conjures up a plethora of images that radiate joy, whether it’s standing out on stella soundtracks like; The To-Do List, The Worlds End and a couple of American Pies, or being the living embodiment of eclectic ecstasy for over 30 years, they always seem to make the world a happier place in their own way. This is why the opening line to their latest album felt like such a knife to my heart. Hearing James say “We’re all gonna die, that’s the truth. Quit measuring time, by money and youth” is like watching Dick and Dom filling out their tax returns.
Naturally I wasn’t there with James at the start because I’m not 50 but that’s meant that I find it genuinely impossible to imagine a world that doesn’t have songs like Sit Down, Laid and She’s a Star. Now with their 15th studio album they are still able to stand up to the legendary status they have built for themselves. Opening track Zero, although carrying the heavy punches of realist lyrics that walk the edge of the pessimistic line, still has a beautiful feel to it that explodes into the audio equivalent of throwing open the blinds and letting the sun in.
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about the next couple of tracks. All The Colours Of You and Recover feel like a band blissfully unaware they are out of their comfort zone, with no sense of passion or originality that makes the opening track stand out. A clear effort has been made to make these two tracks more accessible in their sound but in that pursuit, James have lost the spark that makes them so intriguing to begin with. It is interesting to note however that track 4, Beautiful Beaches, manages to retain elements from the previous two tracks whilst still being unmistakably James. They’re not reinventing the wheel here but in typical James fashion you’ll find it hard stopping this song from making your day feel brighter and that’s all you can ever ask for from the band.
Wherever It Takes Us is up next and takes a sharp turn down a new, far more interesting path. The vocal delivery in the verse doesn’t let up, sounding like if John Cooper Clarke fucked Bono, which then releases into a joyous chorus sung by a choir that is clearly going to be a highlight when played live on their upcoming tour.
Miss America stands out as a beautifully successful attempt at bringing the album down to a wonderfully reflective lull. Starting with strings playing a constant note beneath some of the best vocals on the album which at times are nearly whispered this song always threatens to explode but instead floats off into the sunset just before the three-minute mark and leaves the listener waving at it as it disappears over the horizon.
Finishing the album is the track XYST, a more traditionally James track with pounding drums and vocals that can be screamed along to. It’s everything we’ve come to expect (Except for some pretty out their instrumental breaks half way through the song that seem to be making an effort at sounding like a My Bloody Valentine covers band). There was never going to be any other way James were going to finish this album.
After 15 albums its almost impossible to be doing anything originally or passionately but with James, although clearly and understandably not at their peak, there is still something of value to be given to the world here. It was genuinely surprising how rare it was to feel that you have heard it all before. This is far more than just another “It’s just a money grab, Insert Name Here fans will buy anything they put out” but if you are a James fan that will buy anything they put out I think even you will be pleasantly surprised.
All The Colours Of You will be released via Virgin Music Label and Artist Services on Fri June 4.