JAMIE LIDELL: Jim (Warp Records)


Posted on Apr 29th 2008 11:12 pm

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Jamie Lidell: Jim

WARP 160
Warp Records 2008
10 Tracks. 37mins52secs

The past few years have seen the summer blockbuster season start earlier and earlier. June is no longer the start of summer; as far as movie producers are concerned, mid-April isn’t too early to start rolling out the action-adventures and goofy comedies. If there’s a musical equivalent of this seasonal jumping the gun to be found in the music world, it’s Jamie Lidell’s latest offering, Jim, overflowing with ecstasy and optimism more befitting of a gorgeous summer day than rainy spring.

Jim is an album about rebirth, redefinition, and happier new dawns ahead. On Out Of My System, Lidell visits the doctor, only to be told that, “I am not a machine”. Might this be a sly dismissal of the glitchy processing to be found on his previous material, both as himself and as part of Super_Collider with Christian Vogel? The only answer here is that Lidell has “gotta get this outta my system!”, punctuated by grunts and octave-shifts lifted straight from the best gospel and funk. Further supporting this reinvention theme is Another Day, the album’s first song, in which Lidell celebrates another chance to “open up to you”, where “you” could either be a significant other, or his listening audience, who, with Jim, are hearing a more lyrically, vocally, and instrumentally naked Lidell than we’re used to.

2005’s Multiply was the shocker from Lidell, an album whose unadulterated soul pieces (see the title track) were a pretty significant 180 degree turn from 2003’s Muddlin Gear and its radical, arrhythmic deconstructions of R&B. But, while Multiply still had the watermark of an electronic performer (see the percussion cuts on When I Come Back Around), Jim almost completely ditches these echoes of Lidell’s past life, instead focusing on a straight-up soul album, one that sits comfortably alongside revivalist contemporaries like Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings. The closest Jim comes to anything from Lidell’s Super_Collider days is in album-closer Rope Of Sand, with its delicate ambient chimes, or on Figured Me Out, with its liquid R&B stylings. Even those pieces still stand defiantly as songs (not tracks), however, with the former eventually breaking into a tender, reserved melody, while the latter sounds like something Stevie Wonder might be interested in singing these days.

This would all be little more than a gimmick if Lidell didn’t have the songwriting talent to back it up. Fortunately, he has a divine ear for melody, arranging a batch of songs that pay their respects to soul and funk forbearers, without sounding tedious or derivative. Green Light’s disco soul manages to sound both excited and relaxed at the same time, as a steady, shaker-laden beat keeps the horn stabs and piano madness from ever getting too hot. Single Little Bit Of Feel Good is an immediately satisfying update on the classic Motown love song, with reverberated saxophones and tambourines descending as Lidell pleads with a mystery lover (according to the video, it’s a unicorn).

Jim couldn’t hope to be the shock to the system that Multiply was. It’s a safe bet that the majority of Lidell’s fan base these days know him only for Multiply. Instead of trying to once again reinvent the wheel, Lidell is content to roll with the great ride he has going, focusing on tightly crafted songs that’ll be sticking to the ears or a while now; certainly through the hot, sticky days of summer.


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