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James Bay - Electric Light (Album Review)

Tuesday, 22 May 2018 Written by Jacob Brookman

There is a C-List of ‘70s rock bands that exist a couple of rungs below superstars like David Bowie, Fleetwood Mac and Elton John. Despite often outselling those A-Listers at the time, groups like Bad Company, Bread and even Thin Lizzy have strangely forgotten musical catalogues.

The reason is simple: their music has not aged well. That’s both in terms of lyrics that are often too general and, in particular, studio production that felt edgy at the time, but which now sounds profoundly dated. Prediction: despite shifting millions of copies, James Bay’s ‘Electric Light’ will suffer the same fate.

It’s not a bad album. The songs are all competently written and arranged, and Bay’s choice to shed the the rhythm and blues alibi presented on 2015’s ‘Chaos and the Calm’ has been handled in a way that should go unnoticed by fans.

Additionally, Bay and producers Paul Epworth and Jon Green have employed a variety of new elements with skill. The LP’s forays into neo-soul production (Wild Love), gospel choirs (Just for Tonight) and highly processed drum production (Wasted on Each Other / Sugar Drunk High) all hit their marks.

There are also some quite memorable moments, including the anarchic climax to In My Head, and a superb vocal performance on the closer, Slide. Taken as a whole, this is an album of taut elements, and Bay seems on a direct path to superstardom.

And yet there is something completely unconvincing about ‘Electric Light’. This is music that is pitched to be all things to all people. What’s lacking is that lyrical specificity mentioned before; a point of view that makes a pop artist interesting beyond the way they look and sound. What is James Bay like as a person? I have no idea, and interviews don’t help.

Hold Back the River is still his best song by a country mile, and there is one other thing that unites many of the C-Listers mentioned at the start: their biggest hits often came on their first albums. The second album - with all the baggage it entails - can often be seen as a free hit by executives. Let’s hope for some actual development next time around.

James Bay Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Fri May 25 2018 - LONDON Omeara
Tue May 29 2018 - LONDON Roundhouse
Wed May 30 2018 - MANCHESTER Albert Hall
Fri June 01 2018 - SHEFFIELD O2 Academy Sheffield
Sat June 02 2018 - BRISTOL Colston Hall
Sun June 03 2018 - CAMBRIDGE Cambridge Corn Exchange
Tue June 05 2018 - NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE O2 Academy Newcastle
Wed June 06 2018 - LEICESTER De Montfort Hall
Thu June 07 2018 - LEICESTER DeMontfort Hall
Wed June 27 2018 - CORK Live at the Marquee

Click here to compare & buy James Bay Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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