Very few bands have had such a varied career as James who started off life on Tony Wilson’s Factory label before becoming indie disco stalwarts as pissed up students on cheap booze bellowed the words to Sit Down.
Led by whirling dervish frontman Tim Booth – the UK’s answer to Michael Stipe – their live shows are the stuff of legend, and each of their first fifteen albums tried to do something different with varying degrees of success. But they deserve full marks for never settling for second best or churning out the hits.
After nearly four decades in the business they are back with their sixteenth new album, All The Colours Of You, released on 4 June 2021, and it’s their first album on new label Virgin Music Label & Artists Services, formerly Caroline International.
It was partly recorded before the pandemic struck, and produced by the Grammy award-winning Jacknife Lee, who has worked with U2, REM, Taylor Swift, Snow Patrol, The Killers. The band who are no strangers to the studio say he brought a fresh approach to their sound working remotely from his studio liaising with Tim Booth – who is also his Topanga Canyon neighbour – and bassist Jim Glennie to reimagine their demos.
“With all the shit that went down in 2020 this was a miraculous conception and another big jump forward for us on the back of the last three albums,” says Tim Booth. “I hope it reflects the colours of these crazy times. Sweet sixteen is a proper album, no fillers and is up there with our best.”
From the first line on the album opener Zero, the prophetic ‘We’re all gonna die’, Booth typically takes on difficult subjects on all 11 tracks, with themes ranging from politics and climate change to dealing with the loss of a loved one during the pandemic.
Miss America examines that country’s tarnished image through the eyes of a beauty pageant, while Beautiful Beaches focuses on the fires that ravished California, and follows a vision Tim had of an earthquake which caused his family to flee for refuge as he sings: ‘That life we left behind, we’re racing down to those beautiful beaches’.
The title track is the first single as James tackle the Trump years head-on. Based in the USA for many years Booth witnessed first-hand the divisiveness and hatred stoked by the former President, and he rails against the sharp rise of white supremacy offering hope of a new and brighter future with the refrain: ‘Love all the colours, all the colours of you’.
Recover is the most poignant song on the record as it deals with the death of Tim’s father-in-law from Covid-19 in the UK, but it tries to honour a loved one’s legacy and spirit: ‘We will remember how to pass your spirit on’.
They’ve already sold 60,000 tickets for their UK arena tour with old mates Happy Mondays in November and December this year. There are a few tickets left here.
Thu 25 Leeds – First Direct Arena
Fri 26 Birmingham – Utilita Arena
Sun 28 Cardiff – Motorpoint Arena
Tue 30 Glasgow – SSE Hydro
Wed 01 Dublin – 3 Arena
Fri 03 Manchester – Arena
Sat 04 London – Wembley Arena
Words by Paul Clarke, you can see his author profile here.