Available on: Warp LP
After living a somewhat nomadic life – English-born with periods in Germany and the States, eventually settling in Nashville, Tennessee last year – it feels as if Jamie Lidell is celebrating a homecoming on his latest LP, Jamie Lidell.
That the LP is self-titled is an affirmation of this, a re-introduction of Lidell proper after 2010’s ironically directionless Compass. Being self-titled is not indicative of a vanity project though; having installed an old SSL mixing desk in his home studio, including the Publison Infernal Machine so beloved by his hero Prince, Lidell set about crafting a sound that would incorporate an innovate musical lineage of pop and funk into his own digital-soul-man stylings, and become arguably his finest body of work to date.
As opener ‘I’m Selfish’ struts in, you get a heady smack of the Prince-worship that comes to structure the LP as a whole; a well-crafted homage that bears the hallmarks of a classic sound without wholesale appropriating them. Between the luxurious bass, slick synth lines and nonchalant sensuality of the vocals, weaving between glassy top end and treated reverb, Lidell deploys his ’80s funk references with no holds barred. ‘Big Love’ is an absolute joy, living somewhere between Janet Jackson’s ‘Rhythm Nation’, The Time’s ‘777-9311′ and Rick James’ ‘Seventeen’ with pitched Teddy Riley talkbox, soaring hook and finger-snap percussion.
It’s a triple threat that carries straight into potential crossover hit ‘Do Yourself a Faver’, rolling with the eerie g-funk of Outkast and a bassline that wouldn’t be out of place on a Sly and The Family Stone jam. If we had a modern day version of Soul Train, then ‘Do Yourself A Faver’ would be a certain crowd-pleaser, and the album becomes a rewarding forward march from then on. ‘You Know My Name’ incorporates the romantic escapism of disco and the tongue-in-cheek cockiness of New Jack Swing with body-popping brashness, as synths screech and vocal harmonies simmer with a lip-curling bravado that would make Morris Day proud.
Admittedly, Lidell treats precarious ground with just how much he loves Prince. ‘Blaming Something’ and ‘You Naked’ both lyrically and vocally come close to pastiche at points, so it’s important that there’s the occasional respite from it. The forlorn horns on ‘why_ya_why’ are dripping with the American South like a Mardi Gras after-party and ‘Don’t You Love Me’ is the closest the album gets to a ballad, with its down-tempo breathiness and longing for a lost love setting itself apart from the rest of the LPs optimism. Overall, Jamie Lidell errs on the side of caution with its inherent love affair with Prince but remains playful and original in almost every other respect, which is what makes it such a cohesive and enjoyable listen.