Woefully out of step
Tom Dibb
11:30 2nd June 2021

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James have become one of the country’s most seminal and well-loved indie outfits. Rising to prominence in the Madchester scene of the '80s, they found common ground with contemporaries such as The Happy Mondays, Inspiral Carpets and The Farm. Blending together indie guitars and a dance groove. Tracks such as, ‘Sit Down’, ‘Come Home’ and ‘Laid’ became standouts in the scene.

That was thirty years ago. With their latest release, All The Colours of You, James are woefully out of step. Their mixing of dance and indie fails to land, seeming muddled and confused in today’s modern musical landscape.

Album opener ‘ZERO’ is a high-point of the record. Leading the listener in with ambient and noise fuelled stammers, James mix in with gentle and dulcet piano to make something sounding unnerving. Booth’s cries of, “We’re all gonna die that’s the truth, stop measuring time by money or truth” giving the track an unflinching realism surrounding their age. ‘Recover’ also serves to be a stand-out. Written about the current pandemic, it tackles Booth’s emotions surrounding his father-in-law's tragic passing due to COVID-19. Lines such as “Will he get better?” cut through the soul, beautifully juxtaposed by the dance groove placed behind it.

Lead single ‘All The Colours of You’, though, leaves a lot to be desired. Taking a New Order-esque spin on dance music, it mixes in guitars, creating something that sounds rather dated. The lyrics, too, fall flat, with lines such as, “Who’s more woke than who?” being so out-of-step with current times that is it is almost groan-inducing. The lack of real impact behind the lyrics is continued in 'Miss America', with Booth’s repeated reference to a “Man with the tan” being so on the nose but also so afraid to over step the mark. You’ll find yourself shouting at your sound system, begging the lyrics to pack more of a punch and an edge.

Closing track ‘XYST’ ends the album on somewhat of a high-not. Guitars lead in, giving the feeling of an REM track, before an electric drum sound and a dower and slow vocal delivery from Booth enter. As it leads to the chorus, guitar feedback grows, only to be knocked back down by a sickly sweet, group-lead chorus, sounding much like Coldplay post-Mylo Xyloto.

All The Colours of You fails to hit the mark. Coming from a band that once sounded so fresh and on the cutting edge, this album already sounds dated and misguided. Having said that, it would take more than this to come close to tarnishing James’ legacy as one of the country's many iconic bands.

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Photo: Press