You will read a gushing review of this album, the new one by James Blake on any other corner of the internet. But I can’t do that. I can’t lie. You see I tried – once again. I tried with this album – just like I tried with the debut. And all I hear is a very boring – sometimes trite, painful – voice bleating on about very boring things; phoned-in loneliness, with the fax machine providing the musical accompaniment.
Blake’s manufactured sparseness has been raved about by so many – he takes elements of Eno and Prince apparently, he’s like D’Angelo I’ve also been told; he’s a genius.
I hear Antony & The Johnsons without the drama, without the songs.
I would rather hear John Martyn – any day. Still. Always.
The clipped, jittery beats have all but been dropped this time, lurching piano – sometimes treated (Brian Eno pops in to pick up his name; RZA does the same) and a hollow, spiralling voice. That’s about the thick of it this time around. These ballads say nothing, do nothing, go nowhere. I mean, sure, they rise and fall, Blake sends them off – little messages in bottles – but it’s all just empty-gesture music once again.
There’s no heart, warmth, depth, soul. But this will already be talked up around the world as an album of huge heart, total warmth, surprising depth and deep soul. So round and round we go then.
I could just tell you this album is not for me – and it’s not. That’s obvious.
But I’d prefer to tell you that this album is not for you. I’d prefer you to hear something where the main production trick doesn’t seem like a window was left open to catch a hint of the fall of rain, a voice draining life from the listener.
This album will be raved about because it’s easy to tell you that Blake is young and brilliant and he’s making a kind of music you never thought you’d actually like.
Everyone wants to think they’re liking something new and hip – even if they don’t care themselves about being new and hip. Everyone wants that.
But the truth is this album sounds like David Gray’s White Ladder album after a stroke.