An intriguing concept delivered with atypical directness but none of the hazy psychedelics.
is the latest album from My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James, his third solo record not counting contributions made to other artists and cover albums. Add to the seven albums he’s created for his band since 1999, and this is certainly a prolific and committed artist.
Known for his fuzz-guitar fuelled, country rock tales of Americana, James
’ releases hold such an array of experimentalism and freedom that there is always a palpable anticipation to their release. Uniform Distortion
promises more of the same, yet from the moment opening track ‘Just a Fool’ kicks in, the directness of the delivery, both in vocal and thumping rock sounds never abates across the entire LP. Strangely his work with Elvis Costello (with whom James contributed to an album inspired by a collection of unreleased Bob Dylan tracks) and George Harrison (James released Harrison cover album ‘Tribute To’ in 2017) seems to have influenced the sound, as there is a much more emphasis placed on a ‘vocals to the fore’ intimacy, as if what he is saying he wants to be heard.
Writing about the influences behind the album, Jim James stated:
"My head feels like exploding with the amount of information we are forced to consume on a daily basis and how that information is so DISTORTED there is almost no longer any tangible truth."
The sense of the album is exactly that, the telling of stories through a wall of distortion, in this sense, the fuzzy and heavily distorted sounds of his guitar. Whether those stories are twisted from part-truths, or lost in a wall of noise, this gives the album a genuine spine and intrigue from the off.
There is still that sense of honesty and uniqueness that has become ubiquitous from James, especially on tracks like ‘Out of Time’ and ‘No Secrets’ which are standouts on the album, and certainly, compound that sense of curiosity from the listener as to what lies behind them. However, the album’s simplicity and directness place its overall sound as being in a somewhat unfamiliar territory for Jim James - that of being a more straight pop(ish) rock album. That is not a criticism, as Uniform Distortion holds up well, but when placed next to previous solo records, especially it’s psychedelic predecessor, 2016’s Eternally Even
, or offerings from My Morning Jacket, it sounds like the beginnings of an album not yet fully realised in its delivery. This is potentially down to its creator spreading himself too thin, or possibly the slightly disjointed production which lacks his usual cohesion. Whilst certainly an enjoyable listen, Uniform Distortion
is unlikely to be seen as one of James’ strongest.
Uniform Distortion by Jim James is out on 29th June from ATO Records.