ALBUM REVIEW: Jim Lockey And The Solemn Sun – ‘Colour’

Artwork for Jim Lockey And The Solemn Sun’s ‘Colour’

This is something of a milestone for Jim Lockey And The Solemn Sun. Well, not really, but it might as well be. Returning with their first new music in almost a decade is still cause for celebration, as a band who’ve been frequently under-appreciated in terms of stock. Back in their folk-punk heyday, they really shone among the Xtra Mile stable for their embittered perseverance and songwriting. Even in their brief rebrand to just Solemn Sun, and a tilt towards more darkly expansive alt-rock, their § EP in 2014 was also pretty great. And that was the last bit of material they dropped until now, following a comeback in 2019 that few could’ve predicted would actually spawn new music.

And even if they had, Colour likely wouldn’t have been the expected outcome. To clear the air nice and early, it’s really not like what Jim Lockey And The Solemn Sun have produced before on its surface. Gone is the majority of punk or darker depth, in favour of streamlined indie-rock tones that wouldn’t have felt out of place among some of the 2010s Britrock crowd. But at the same time, it isn’t a marginalisation of what made this band special to begin with. It’s more a consolidation, rounding and smoothing what was already present while keeping the core feel intact.

The vibe is inimitably like that of Deaf Havana, at any era other than their earliest. It’s the clearest parallel for where Colour finds itself, in emotionally stark and strident Britrock that’s a bit deeper and more explorative of its own impulses. Pair that with some retained folk-rock texture (the most resemblance to Deaf Havana that it bears is to Old Souls on those merits), and songs like Conditional Love or Weathering don’t feel like that much of a departure overall. Sure, there are poppier cues taken, notably on Reno and Always with their own interpretations of wiry alt-pop tightness, but Colour is generally the organic next step that it ought to be. It’s perhaps a bit bigger and more blustery than what preceded it; otherwise, the evolutional throughline is fairly easy to trace.

There isn’t too much of a divergence among that either, as Jim Lockey And The Solemn Sun’s existing bedrock is still an applicable base. It’s all expansively emotional, and broad in a way that owns that side of itself without drifting into meaninglessness. Jim Lockey’s vocals really are the ideal anchor for that, even if some of the gravel from past iterations has been bound and stabilised. Now, there’s more of a focus on the approachable humanity of his performance, and his comfort in projecting vulnerability to wide-eyed romance and back down to melancholy. The comparisons to James Veck-Gilodi are welcomed, albeit with a slightly narrower range.

They don’t feel like contentious decisions either, which is a testament to how Colour is aligned with the rest of Jim Lockey And The Solemn Sun’s catalogue. Not that such claims will be brought to the table, but notions of ‘selling out’ have incredibly little merit here. Asong like Shame isn’t conducive with that at all, where it’s built on the shuddering, greyscale atmosphere of the Solemn Sun days as the album’s least pop-friendly moment, but far from disapprovingly so. Elsewhere—even when Colour is more faired and tightened— the warmer production and noticeable acoustic rattle keeps it organic and curtails any excess of polish. As the closing pair Trouble and You & I run by at nearly five minutes apiece, each with suitably ramping grandeur that’d make for a worthy climax, the strength of creative decisions made really do hit a high point that shows itself off excellently.

As such, even if it doesn’t leap out as much as their earlier work did, Colour feels as though it gets everything right as Jim Lockey And The Solemn Sun’s comeback release. It puts itself out there more without betraying the ethos originally built upon, which can be a difficult ask for a band so attuned to their own way of thinking. But that’s ultimately what makes them a really solid addition to the ever-growing UK canon, and Colour is a healthy extension of that. Besides, acts like this tend to have a fairly decent shelf life as it is in terms of adulation, so the ability to dive right back into position after such an extended absence speaks for itself.

For fans of: Deaf Havana, Frank Turner, Idlewild

‘Colour’ by Jim Lockey And The Solemn Sun is released on 28th July on Xtra Mile Recordings.

Words by Luke Nuttall

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