The big, sweeping romance of Manchester’s James would seem ill-suited to these recent times, when we’ve all been stuck inside and no one loves thy neighbor. But when their regular in-person recording sessions were cancelled due to the COVID pandemic and lockdowns, singer Tim Booth (QRO interview) and producer Jacknife Lee found a way to work remotely with the other seven-or-eight members to create All the Colours of You, which both is and isn’t a COVID album, but is definitely a James album.
The grand ambitions of James are definitely in bold on Colours, such as the pressing title track and the uplifting single “Beautiful Beaches” (QRO review). They have the emotional stadium size more akin to big eighties outfits from when they got their start, than either the slamming pop or intimate indie of today. Yet they also mix that with other elements, such as the beats-into-brightness of “Isabella” or the ditty aspect in “Getting Myself Into”.
Other than a few smaller, more subdued numbers such as “Hush” and “Miss America”, this is a record to be experienced live on the big stage, not at home via the latest streaming platform. Yet Booth does put in some decidedly of-the-moment socio-political lyrics that, frankly, were kind of dated even before the album came out, particularly the Briton commenting on Yankee politics (including the orange one) in “Colours” and “America”.
James will be returning to the wide-open British festival fields in late summer, where these songs will carry the day and the crowd (even if we’re trying to forget about what just past).