Having met Jim James in Manchester on one solitary occasion, he came across as a rather serious, meditative type, though granted, all I did was shake his hand and say “Hi, I’m Loz“, so it’s quite feasible that he wondered what I was there for and why I’d even bothered to do so (I was only really waiting there while God Is In The TV’s ace lensman Paul Reno got the band to sign his album). So, my one experience of the man was that, although not unfriendly, he was rather solemn faced and perhaps even slightly suspicious.
Uniform Distortion though, James’ third album proper of original solo material, has gone some way to dissuading me of such an opinion. You know how sometimes formerly ‘serious’ artists decide it’s time they well and truly let their hair down? Like Neil Young with the splendidly entertaining 2009 album Fork In The Road? Well this is Jim James’s Fork… and you know what? It’s an absolute blast from start to finish.
That’s not to say anything contained within is in any way throwaway; it’s not (well, you could argue that the delightfully silly ‘Yes To Everything‘ sounds like they liked the demo version best – quite rightly – and never bothered finishing it) but this is the My Morning Jacket frontman’s rockiest release yet, and by some distance.
That’s not where the comparisons with old Shakey end though, as James employs a ‘Like A Hurricane‘ style guitar sound on many of the tracks, most notably ‘No Secrets‘, the utterly mesmerising ‘Throwback‘, and the Zombies like ‘No Use Waiting‘.
Conversely, the ridiculously catchy ‘Over And Over‘ is reminiscent of Supertramp‘s 1975 hit single ‘Dreamer‘, melodically at least.
Uniform Distortion‘s opening track sets the scene immediately, as the urgent and infectious riffs of ‘Just A Fool‘ invite you on a cinematic road trip – a vacation with dearly loved friends that you’ll remember with misty eyed passion for the rest of your life – while Jim James drives the bus, orchestrating the all night singalong between all passengers on board, stopping to shout from the rooftops “Screw the revolution! Let’s just have us some FUN!”
Fans with a penchant for the man’s more laid back and/or soulful side will not be left disappointed either, as James delivers something more akin to Young’s On The Beach era with the melancholy ‘No Secrets‘, and the heartbreaking resignation of the “I guess I’ll just keep movin’ on” refrain of break up song ‘Too Good To be True‘ which concludes proceedings.
In the main though, this is one of the most ‘instant’ releases of 2018 to date, not just by Jim James but by anyone, and I challenge any self respecting music fan to listen to ‘Better Late Than Never‘ or ‘All In Your Head‘ just once and NOT find it stuck in their head for the next 24 hours at least. Uniform Distortion is simply joyous. I think I know what my soundtrack to the summer is going to be…
Uniform Distortion is released on 29th June through ATO Records.