February 25, 2013 No comments yet
Self-titled albums tend to have a certain clandestine air about them. Ranging from deeply personal to ambiguously comprehensive, there’s an aura surrounding the eponymous LP that begs into question the artistic process. For UK producer and blue-eyed-soul crooner Jamie Lidell, it’s a reintroduction to his old, animated ways. With a solo catalog that kicked off (commercially) in 2005 with the spectacular Multiply, (you might have heard this in an ad or two) Lidell has shown an artistic restlessness that seems to dictate his music in very holistic fashions. 2008’s Jim was soaked in 50’s soul and neo-gospel; a counterpoint to Multiply‘s electronic menagerie. 2010’s Compass was a perplexing and frustrating experiment in lo-fi adventurism, slipping into balladry that Lidell clearly hadn’t gotten a full grip on. But, what continues to make Jamie’s music so compelling is the pure auteurism.
The crux of Lidell’s latest release seems to be an attempt at aggregating all the multiple personalities that tend to grab hold of the creative wheel, and channeling them at their most opportune moments. Lead single “What a Shame” contorts the ambitious. glitchy synth pop of his original Christian Vogel collaboration, Super Collider, and crescendo’s to a positively gargantuan hook out of it, akin to something Hall & Oats might have tandem wet dreams about. There’s a clear affinity for the 80s on Jamie Lidell, with tracks like “Big Love” swiping drums straight out of weekend DJ set at Studio 54 in it’s peak that could build the backdrop to a Paula Abdul dance break, and “You Know My Name” in full George Clinton revivalism mode. There aren’t enough Member’s Only jackets and Ray Bans to personify this records M.O. Of course, it’s Lidell’s voice that strings all of the fanfare together. No matter what era, Jamie has shown an ability to compliment any genre with his strength of vocalization.
Opener, “I’m Selfish”. rides high on shimmering keyboard and a Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis carbon copy groove, but what sets the track off is Lidell’s pitch-perfect restraint. We’ve heard him blow the doors off of songs like “All I Wanna Do” and “When I Come Back Around” in the past, but here he’s fitting himself between the composition, rather than competing with it. So, with a cacophonous, talkbox-laden closer like “In Your Mind”, Lidell weaves his way through the instrumental with a nimble ease, as not to disrupt the integrity of the mood and progression. There’s a development — which almost didn’t seem necessary until now — that has proven essential to Lidell’s growth. That evolution, added with the reminiscent feel of the album as a whole, culminates in what one could consider Jamie’s most virtuous project yet.
That virtuosity doesn’t come with a few pitfalls, unfortunately. Jamie Lidell can be an exhausting listen after the initial, starry-eyed amazement in its technical proficiency. When tracks like “why_ya_why” and “Don’t You Love Me” don’t land emotionally, they become stale quickly. There’s not exactly a “bad” song in the bunch but, collectively, the album doesn’t flow as a unified unit. Not to say that Lidell has been a sequencing expert in the past, (often jamming too many slow jams in the latter half of his albums) but this particular project has the clunky progression of a technicolored, speeding party bus bending around hairpin turns. Many moments on this record will certainly awe the listener, but they don’t occur consistently to trust that each track was made with continuity in mind. This disjointed linearity doesn’t damn the album, but the skip button does occasionally come into play.
Jamie Lidell, by its completion, lives up to the nature of its title, keeping to the frantic and colorful impetus of the man himself. When all else fails, there’s still an album performed, composed and produced by Jamie Lidell, which, while that complete control narrows the perspective to a series of songs tied to the mindset of the present state of one man, the benefit is hearing the exact incarnation of every sound one person wishes to record closest to the way they were wished to be concieved. Far from his best work, Lidell has crafted an album of tremendous hits and immersible misses. Essentially, the epitome of Jamie Lidell, flaws and all, can be found in these 11 tracks, but what’s most telling is that you probably don’t even need to listen to every song to know this.