Uh-oh, artist in 'eponymous album title' mode: prepare for filleting of humour matrix and liberal self-coating of introspection. Prepare almost-apologetic phrases like 'stripped back', 'raw' and 'heartfelt'. Subconsciously adjust expectations.
Except that this is Jamie Lidell, and technically he has already had an eponymous album (does shortening your name to just Jim count?). And Jamie Lidell does not usually defy expectations so much as he spatchcocks, seasons and deep fries them. Way back in 2000 when he released the spasmodically listenable debut Muddlin Gear, it wasn't exactly clear where Mr Lidell belonged (other than in his bedroom, suffering from intense agoraphobia, white-facedly calling in pizzas and praying he had the correct change). Then he went and dropped the career-defining Multiply, establishing himself as a white boy soul singer with genuine poise, a terrifically engineered voice, and the production smarts to sell his own mutated version of funk, soul and New Jack Swing to an insanely demanding Warp audience. Jim disguised much of the electronic wizardry beneath a more centre-field, genre specific overcoat. The Beck-produced Compass contained as many missteps as bullseyes. So you've done small and weird, weirdly enticing, borderline normal and disappointingly big budget. Expectations be damned, I'm betting it's a cod reggae album.
Thankfully, I'm wrong. A lot of the talk around Lidell focuses on the self-construct that he inhabits; voice like Stevie, beats amalgamated from just about every corner of soul and funk imaginable, incredibly talented as a musician and not afraid to preen and pose in his own videos and live shows. With Jamie Lidell the innovator is allowed to take control, filtering the more recent funk and soul through the high spec electronica and twisted, effected vocals.
'I'm Selfish' has an awful lot of p-funk in it, and expresses in one track what we've known about Jamie all along: at heart, he just wants to rock a party. 'Big Love' belongs on the Police Academy soundtrack along with Jan Hammer and Holiday-era Madge. It's a neon-vested, Opel Manta 400-driving, cocaine-gorging experiment in how to make something sound exactly 30 years old. Riotous fun, unless you happen to have actually lived through them.
Then the party bus takes a sharp turn for the weird. On 'What A Shame' Lidell returns, for the first time, to Muddlin Gear levels of bat shit craziness. A seismic steel girder of a beat aims to knock the hell out of your speakers, while Lidell's own style of dotty production finds five more words for 'glitchy funk'. Like collaborator Beck, Lidell is a musical magpie. There is a hell of a lot of Midnite Vultures here, with tonal shifts every few bars, and for the first time since his very early output Lidell spends a lot of time not intentionally inhabiting genres he loves but busting out into new areas. It might not be too popular with those of his fans who clambered onboard when he went white boy soul, but it'll thrill those who like Lidell to bust expectations. It might be a little early to call any Lidell album definitive. This effort offers up a broad view of everything he's attempted thus far, plus a few more steps out of the ordinary.