Multi award-winning and Grammy nominated James Blunt is back with his fifth studio album The Afterlove. Whilst best known for the single “You’re Beautiful” from his debut album Back To Bedlam”, Blunt’s following albums all peaked in the top 5 of the UK charts and have all been certified platinum (11 times over in the case of his debut).
There’s no reason to expect that The Afterlove will be any different. At only ten tracks long (though the extended version has an extra three tracks), it’s a short and sweet experience but that’s never an issue with me, providing the songs are good. Quality over quantity is always something I like to see as no one wants to buy an album and only like a few of the songs.
Opening track and first single “Love Me Better” kicks things off with a pleasant guitar hook that stayed with me for the rest of the day. It’s a good example of the pop template used for the rest of the album and it’s a sound that is polished without being clinical. It’s also notable for the lyric “I’d say you’re beautiful, but I’ve used that line before” which although amusing, feels a little like it’ll lose its humour pretty quickly. “Bartender” follows in pretty much exactly the same vein; it’s accessible, easy-going pop with a nice enough hook to the melody to keeping humming it afterwards. The pop production goes a little over the top in “Lose My Number” but it’s inoffensive enough to not get in the way of the Maroon 5-esque song. It’s not all about radio play though; “Don’t Give Me Those Eyes” brings things down a few notches with a gentle piano intro that soon expands into a dramatic chorus that’ll soon be featured at many weddings as the first dance. If you’re over the age of 25 think of the song “Stay” by East 17 and you’ll not be too far off. Things pick up with “Someone Singing Along” and even go a little new wave in “California” but it’s all still very listenable. “Make Me Better” and “Time of Our Lives” sees Blunt return to his love song tendencies with folky lilts and his trusted staples of acoustic guitar and piano which, if I’m honest, made me switch off a little. “Heartbeat” and “Paradise” finish off proceedings and although their intros have you imagining similarly soppy meanderings from earlier in the album, they actually develop a little but unfortunately not to anything more interesting than being a little more upbeat.
With each song averaging out at about three and a half minutes, The Afterlove is a quick study. Whilst making a move towards being more relevant by using modern arrangements and slicker production, Blunt’s fifth album lacks in substance and feels like a collection of demos. There are plenty of good ideas in there but I feel like they could have been developed so much more. It’s difficult to begrudge James Blunt playing to his audience with love songs and laments of relationships gone bad but quality of song-writing shouldn’t go by the wayside. There just isn’t a standout tune on the album like previous efforts. Ultimately, if someone had asked me what I though this album was going to be like before listening to it my response would have been exactly the same as it is now; contains some listenable, accessible songs but the rest is too anonymous and bland at times for it to be worth buying the whole album. Fans probably won’t mind it but it’s far from his best work such as the singles “1973”, “Bonfire Heart” and “Carry You Home”.
Author: Steve, Bristol Store