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James - All The Colours of You (Album Review)

Tuesday, 15 June 2021 Written by Graeme Marsh

Photo: Lewis Knaggs

Three years on from the indifferent ‘Living in Extraordinary Times’, James have turned to Jacknife Lee (U2, R.E.M.) to see if their fortunes can be revived, with ‘All The Colours of You’ the result of the first meeting of minds between the group and legendary producer.

It wasn’t a straightforward project, though, with Covid restrictions enforcing a detached approach as Lee took the early demos and played around, going back and forth with vocalist Tim Booth in California and remotely with the rest of the band back in the UK.

The title track was the first taste of the new album and it’s a banger, initially backing up Booth’s contentious claim that this record is up there with the band’s finest work. Their biggest strength still lies with their knack for knocking out moments of uplifting euphoria like this, even if that is now tempered by age. 

Its lyrics are suitably current (“quarantine with you, our room’s a private zoo”) and its foot-tapping beat will please fans, with the track growing in stature as it progresses.

Second single Beautiful Beaches performs similarly well, with Booth’s focus shifting from Covid to his retreat from his Californian home in the wake of the wildfires that ravaged the area. Set to a pulsing beat, Magic Bus is another to benefit from the celebratory atmosphere the band seemingly generate at will.

James have always delved into their quirkier side on occasion and that continues through opener Zero, which appears like a drunken slur. It’s a strange choice as a kick-off point, with the unwelcome opening line stating the inevitable truth that “we’re all gonna die”. 

Other curveballs are thrown, with the electronic beats of Wherever it Takes Us possibly the best of that particular bunch with its LCD Soundsystem-like intro. Its verses are somewhat uninspiring but the chorus sticks like super glue. Contrastingly, the jangly guitars that are another band trait rarely appear aside from the motorik Isabella.

James also have a noted ability to churn out less propulsive but deeply resonant moments that encourage a sea of cigarette lighters. Duly, three tracks plough a similar field (Recover, Miss America and Xyst) and recall ‘Laid’ classic Out To Get You in either melody, structure or overall staging. Miss America, though, perhaps offers the most compelling lyrical content as Booth sings of the “love of guns” and “man with the tan” that we associate with our American friends.

‘All The Colours of You’ seems to have reversed a slide that pointed to James petering out in unspectacular fashion. Almost 40 years and 16 albums into their career, then, Booth and team are still relevant, still mesmerising and still euphoric…some of the time at least.

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