Two things have remained consistent throughout the band’s history: Tim Booth’s distinctive voice and songs with lyrical depth, which you’ll find in great supply in these songs.
All the Colours of You is James’ latest album, and it shows the band continuing with a more layered and experimental sound, to the point that it’s hard to know where you would file this album in a record store. If a group only has a matter of seconds to catch the listener’s attention, then you can say James accomplished that particular mission. The first lyrics to the opening song “Zero” are “We’re all gonna die. That’s the truth.”
Ultimately, the song’s message is that we’re all going to die, which is why you shouldn’t live unfulfilled. The melody is a swirl of guitar, piano, and strings. While the lyrics are thought-provoking, this song could be condensed from its duration of nearly six minutes. Also, for a song with such a hopeful message, it doesn’t come across as particularly joyful.
In the 1990s, the band recorded Wah Wah, a free-form album produced by Brian Eno. It was something different for James, but they’re still recording in that same spirit. “Wherever It Takes Us” is a good example of this. The melody is unpredictable. The verses’ lyrics are spoken and come across as something you might hear at a poetry reading. The chorus’ lyrics are sung like a church choir to add to the unpredictability.
All the Colours of You is a complex album. While its part pop and part rock, ultimately, it isn’t easy to classify. Some of the songs would fit well in the soundtrack of a film adaptation of an Irvine Welsh novel. Other songs would fit better in the soundtrack of a coming-of-age film. Still, for all its complexity, there’s no song you find yourself singing after you’ve listened to the album a couple of times.6/10
Pop Matters | Gary Schwind