Review Summary: Letting any possible retribution I may have ever slightly had go, I move to review (and later enjoy) the UK popstar's sophomore album...
You hate James Blunt. Admit it. You don’t particularly know why, but you just can’t stand him. And with the dull inconsistency of 2004’s Back To Bedlam
and its subsequent mega-hits “You’re Beautiful” and “Goodbye My Lover”, who could blame you? And how could you be blamed for being skeptical of Blunt’s sophomore record, All The Lost Souls
? No-one, that’s who- unless your mum or girlfriend were one of the 12 million people who bought his first album. How surprising it may be, then, to hear the fact that James Blunt has made an album at least 110% better than his previous album. This is not to say it’s all groundbreaking and brilliant; but nevertheless, he has indeed created quite a solid album.
The record begins, a little unsurprisingly, with the lead single “1973”. Thankfully, however, it is a refreshing and catchy number with Blunt working a new–found funk that should definitely be expanded on in future releases. The song deals with Blunt’s Iberian club scene experiences and the women he met through these experiences- “What seemed so strong has been and gone”, he muses of one of them. There’s a definite confidence, groove and freshness to this tune; and what’s better is that it’s already better than all the singles from Bedlam put together.
It is the first indication of improvement, and the list simply grows from here.
Blunt is far more confident, puts far less nuance in his voice and sounds a lot more comfortable with what he is doing. This may be in part due to the album being recorded with his touring band of the past two years. The backing band brings a new dimension to the songs, and takes out a lot of the soullessness that was almost omnipresent on Bedlam. Even the lyrics have improved in parts- “Carry You Home”, as a prime example of this, paints the picture of a young American woman’s demise and untimely death. “As strong as you were/Tender you go/I’m watching you breathing for the last time”, crooned over a bright acoustic chord progression. This track stands as a true highlight.
Elsewhere, another outstanding track comes with “One of the Brightest Stars”, which sounds like a mix of “Reveal”-era R.E.M, Bee Gees harmonies and Don Henley song writing. The song, production-wise, is very stripped back and becomes one of the best songs on the album as a result.
Then there’s “Give Me Some Love”. Chances are you’ve heard about this song already, and a particularly eyebrow-raising couplet: “Why don’t you give me some love?/ I’ve taken a sh-tload of drugs”. Everyone who’s heard this one has their two cents on what this song is about, and another two won’t hurt- this song, in my view, is about Blunt doing music simply the way he wants to; and even after millions of album sales, he is still widely looked down on by music fans worldwide. This is him venting frustration and seeing if something like valium will take away the problems. Of course, it doesn’t…but it certainly makes for an entertaining track, featuring some quirky use of a toy piano and a fabulous “Hey Jude” styled sing-along outro.
Blunt has tried a lot of new things on this record, and the experiment has certainly paid off. This isn’t a classic- this may even struggle to get into my top 20 albums of 07 with the way things are going; and the record is still inconsistent as a result of bad track-listing choices- but this is a thousand times better than his first album. “All The Lost Souls” gives me hope that greater things are ahead of this musician- no matter how much he gets panned by critics.