If on his big, mid-period albums, Jim and Multiply, Jamie Lidell was essentially a proto-Plan B, a purveyor of polished, romping retro-soul, then Jamie Lidell represents a return to his electronic roots. Sort of. Recorded at his home in Nashville, Lidell's fifth album is not the bold fusion of soulful songwriting and cutting-edge electronica he once traded in as half of Super_Collider. Rather, it is a celebration of '80s dance-pop, the tough, crisp productions of Jellybean Benitez and that tradition of flamboyant electro-funk that connects Rick James, Andre 3000 and Jimmy Edgar.
As ever, there are great songs here, underpinned by sharp, imaginative production. On "You Naked," Lidell condenses elements of early house music, Cameo's synthetic-funk and that Benitez Funhouse sound into a persuasive pop song. The grinding, leftfield R&B of "What a Shame" is even more interesting. If it doesn't quite sound like DJ /rupture remixing Outkast, it certainly harks back to the creative tremors of the Neptunes' early work with Kelis.
The problem is that Lidell doesn't go far enough. Maybe one day he'll fully unleash the avant-garde eccentricity of "why_ya_why," a track that brings to mind Tom Waits leading a computer-generated New Orleans funeral march. Instead, Lidell often sounds like a painstakingly accurate pastiche of his favourite artists. "You Know My Name" and "So Cold" could be lost Prince tracks from the Purple Rain or Sign O' The Times era. This archaeological dig also unearths some far more disturbing '80s relics. "Big Love" evokes images of pastel sports jackets, polished session musicians and Billy Ocean dancing on a Caribbean beach. No one wants to go back there.