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Review: 'JAMES, JIM'
'Uniform Distortion'   

-  Label: 'ATO Records'
-  Genre: 'Rock' -  Release Date: '29th June 2018'

Our Rating:
When Jim James stumbled upon a photo of "The Illuminated Man’ by Duane Michals in the pages of The Last Whole Earth Catalogue it struck a deep chord.

This catalogue, published in the days before the Internet in 1971, has often been described as a print version of Wikipedia in the way it attempted to assimilate a wealth of multi-faceted 'alternative' ideas into one mind-expanding volume.

Nowadays, the need for a filter on the mass of information we consume is even greater given that we are bombarded on a daily basis with a plethora of views and news all proclaiming to be the voice of truth and reason.

Jim James is just one among many who feel overwhelmed by the speed of technology and reveals his survival strategy: "I am trying to put down my phone, use the computer and social media less and seeking to kick a net addiction; to get "off the grid" and just focus on real life and the people".

The album title is a reference to the fact that James passionately believes the information highway is fast-tracking a distorted sense of reality and eroding basic human values in the process. "There is almost no longer any tangible truth", he says.

James hopes that people will see the cover image of the illuminated man and that "its organic mind blowing distortion" will help them to connect with his music.

It's no surprise to find that his third solo album applies an analogue-focused, back to basics approach which enables the My Morning Jacket frontman to embrace his inner Elvis.

With Seth Kauffman on bass and Dave Givan on drums, the power trio keep things so simple and direct for a live in the studio feel.

The scuzzy imperfections are part of the deal as James is at pains not to set himself up as an enlightened guru for our age. "I'm going through the motions with a mic in my hand" he admits disarmingly on the opening track, Just A Fool. The hazy, slightly out of focus black and white imagery in the video for this song reveals that he's aiming to communicate some raw authenticity in the unlikely event of him being accused of slick anti-marketing.

The anti-couch potato message behind You Get To Rome is clear. This is a song about roaming rather than dreaming of traveling to the Italian capital. Here he steals the brassy riff from The Who's 5.15 and elsewhere he borrows freely from Rock'n'Roll classics.

He's aware that all this retro-ism might lead to him being dismissed as a Throwback; a subject he addresses head on in Out Of Time with the line "I'm either behind the times or ahead of the times".

This doesn't hold him back from making an urgent call to come together in No Use Waiting, a song which reflects his earnest desire for change outside of social networks. In a similar vein, "We should be open to whatever might happen next" is the rallying cry of Yes To Everything.

His crooning on the closing track, Too Good To Be True leaves you thankful that James decided on an upbeat, self-deprecating tone for the rest of the album.

These are all protest songs but they are intended as a good natured series of wake-up calls rather than angry rants of a technophobe.

Pay heed!

Jim James' website
  author: Martin Raybould

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JAMES, JIM - Uniform Distortion