And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years.
As the long night of Covid draws, slowly, to a close we are all desperately seeking…something. A steer that something better lies ahead. A statement of comfort. A suggestion of joy. A spark of love.
Surely Adam and Eve must have, at least once, cast their eyes back towards Eden and yearned for a return to the innocence of that terrestrial kingdom. Not even the opportunity to truly live, to experience suffering, to make choices, to create life, to have knowledge could have stopped them yearning for the life they had lost.
So it is with us, we have been presented with the opportunity to think again, to do things differently, to show more compassion, to live better, to tread more carefully, to appreciate the things that truly matter…and yet we are casting our eyes, already, back to the old ways, the old days.
These are strange times…we look back to look forward, we want things to change and we want them to stay the same, stuck in the middle.
All of which brings us, inevitably, to the sixteenth studio album from James. A band who, perhaps better than any other, are capable of providing hope for the hopeless, light in the darkest of days and an embrace for the broken and lonely. Forever moving forward and always holding out a hand for us to cling to as they do. Not a band concerned with capturing the zeitgeist but, instead, a band who see, clearly, what matters most when other artists are blinded by what matters only to them.
Always, with James, we hear hymns from the village. The village of our own hearts and souls. The village of dreams and faith. The village of hope and belief. The choir sings, the congregation is united and, by the end, we are all lifted up, lifted higher.
All that is required for the healing to begin is to let go of the mind, to lie back and float in the spaces created by the words, the voice, the sounds, the rhythms and the beats. They will be by your side.
After nearly forty years what can we possibly hope for from any band? Few manage to be anything other than heritage, to provide nostalgia, to play the hits…over and over and over again…to the same audience, in the same places, at the same time of year.
With “All the Colours Of You” they have managed something unimaginable, something incredible…their best ever album. Oh, I know…I can hear you now. “What about…”. Well, what about it?
Few albums have had the impact on me as “Seven”. It hit me at exactly the right moment. I was ready for it and it was ready for me. Even now, so many years later, it can reduce me to tears, soothe my aching heart and lift my spirits like almost nothing else.
You will have your own favourite moment from the long, and diverse, back catalogue. The indie than thou will cherish “Stutter” and it’s peculiar, folk charms. The Britpop brigade will hail “Whiplash” for “bangers” like “Tomorrow” and “She’s a Star”. There is a James album for everyone.
But this time they have made something bigger, bolder and braver than ever before. An album that sounds comfortable in its own skin, made by people who know that they have hit “the” moment…everything falling into the right place, all the players playing like they have never played before. Perhaps it has been the impact of so little human connection, the absence of friends and family, the crumbling of the world we knew, the loss of loved ones…or maybe it’s magic.
There is no need to tackle this track or that track. No purpose in deconstructing this line or that line. Nothing to be gained by analysing this riff or that riff. This isn’t that sort of album, this is an album that has to be felt, experienced, lived in.
What is worth commenting on is the fact that, in the midst of terrible sadness, I experienced more hope, more joy and more life across it’s running time than I have since the world turned to shit.
If you are broken.
If you are tired.
If you are grieving.
If you are lonely.
If you are alone.
“All the Colours of You” may help to fix you, may bring energy to your weary bones and soul, may offer solace and consolation, may bring some strange companionship and will, no maybe, remind you that you are not alone.
Nothing more can be offered.
Nothing more should be needed.
I’m sorry that I haven’t told you about the words, I’m sorry that I haven’t awarded any stars or numbers to help you determine how “good” it might be, I’m sorry that I haven’t really said anything about the music… and yet, I’m not really sorry because I have said something, maybe everything, about what really matters when it comes to James.
This is not about rock and roll.
This is not about stadium anthems.
This is not about technique and technicalities.
There is rock and roll here…and pop…and electronic delights…and experimentation.
There are anthems so mighty they may well bring the stadium down. The craft and technique is clear to all.
But this is bigger than that.
This is the sound of your heart and their hearts…the loves, losses, hopes, dreams, joys and wonders of all of us, pressed into the grooves of an album.