Jim James - Uniform Clarity - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Jim James - Uniform Clarity

by James Weiskittel Rating:3 Release Date:2018-10-05
Jim James - Uniform Clarity
Jim James - Uniform Clarity

As a companion piece to his last album, Uniform Clarity provides a near track-for-track reprisal of Jim James’ last release, the blistering Uniform Distortion. But where Uniform Distortion featured a rejuvenated James turning out some of the best songwriting of his career, this collection of acoustic re-workings and reprisals feels anything but inspired.

While it’s admirable that James sought to present separate versions of these songs (as opposed to simply remixing the pre-existing release), Uniform Clarity is (pun very intended) anything but clear. Deliberate or not, much of the record sounds like it was taken directly from James’ smartphone. And while there are a few bright spots here and there (“Just a Fool”, “Throwback”, and a particularly rousing version of “Over and Over”), not even the addition of two new tracks can save this collection from the ‘for completist’s only’ pile.

What is so frustrating about this release is that the material James seeks to revisit is barely four months old; hardly enough time to warrant another take from the My Morning Jacket frontman and producer Shawn Everett. And unfortunately, the charm of hearing a song stripped of any and all production fades rather quickly, leaving little incentive for repeated listens.

To that end, it’s difficult to imagine anyone giving Uniform Clarity more than a single obligatory play, and even a further stretch to imagine that this would be the version of the album that one would choose to listen to on a consistent basis. Even a ‘live’ or ‘unplugged’ treatment would have made more sense than this purposefully lo-fi recreation.

While the stated intention behind Uniform Clarity (raw and real, but very clear, much like in the early days of recording where all you could hear was the truth because there were no ways to manipulate recordings in the studio.”) is novel enough, the fact remains that much of the record simply feels like an inferior version of its predecessor.

If you’ve enjoyed Uniform Distortion so much that the thought of listening to a sonically reduced, ‘document style recording’ excites you, then by all means, this just might be your October jam. For everyone else, Uniform Clarity is an easy pass.

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