Futuristic-sounding soul dude makes weird pop album
Beardy British future-soul man Jamie Lidell has taken a long hiatus, moved to Nashville, Tennessee and returned with this self-titled album. A big step away from the dreary retro-soul experiments of 2008’s ‘Jim’ and 2010’s Beck-produced ‘Compass’, it’s paced frenetically, moving happily from over-excitable to calm and clear. ‘Do Yourself A Favour’, for example, layers Lidell’s serene vocal against prominent bass claps. ‘Big Love’ then does the opposite, as the 39-year-old’s production flourishes take a back seat so he can remind listeners of his ear for pop hooks, 4/4 beats and dance-along basslines.
There’s a sense throughout ‘Jamie Lidell’ that its creator started out with a set of sophisticated synth-pop songs and decided to saturate each one with a heavy dose of the kind of maximalist electro Rustie or Hudson Mohawke would dig. Hear it succeed on ‘What A Shame’, a twisted R&B ode to lost love, or the extraordinarily catchy ‘You Naked’, a thoroughly modern-sounding trip deep into the senses. When the album doesn’t work, however, it’s because Lidell’s taste for ’80s fetishism leads the listener down the long, winding and, frankly, dangerous road of naff keytar workouts. Take opening track ‘I’m Selfish’, which fails at trying to reproduce the strange thrill of decades-old electro, and is instead weighed down by disjointed tweaks and turns. This disorientating button-bashing production also drags down ‘You Know My Name’, which is battered and oppressed by warped soundscapes that leave it dense, contrived and unsatisfying.
At its strongest, though, ‘Jamie Lidell’ triumphs in offering an exciting mixture of layered synths and artfully manipulated samples. It’s unconventional but at the same time totally pop – a tricky balancing act Lidell just about pulls off.