James Blunt - Chasing Time: The Bedlam Sessions (CD/DVD)
David Segurola 13/02/2006
Rugged stubble? Check. Irritatingly pleasant posh-boy demeanour? Check. A repertoire of middling acoustic pop songs accompanied by smatterings of critical acclaim? Check. BRITs? Check. Cheaply organised post-album DVD cash-in? Check.
Yes, it is very easy to make jokes. James Blunt is the musical and social equivalent of the Black Death: Liking his music will make your whole social life, and possibly even your actual body, grow huge black boils spitting pus, slowly consuming any remaining shred of dignity until you die a lonely, painful, lingering death. Well, that's how I'd imagine it. Minus the anti-Blunt hysterics, he's just another cheap pop act passing through the system and Chasing Time: The Bedlam Sessions confirms his fate as an artist never to be taken seriously.
Disc one of two presents, with moody lighting and eager applause from the seated crowd, a live concert at the BBC. To the ex-army Major's credit, he, firstly, manages to hide the sickly cliché fest that is “You're Beautiful” amongst other singles and album tracks in the middle of the more-than-long-enough set (not that it doesn't draw eeks of excitement and banal cheering from the audience, mostly comprising girls who've dragged lost-looking husbands and boyfriends along on the promise of sex). Secondly, he manages to come off as a fairly regular, if not painfully dull, kinda guy during between-song banter.
Blunt goes through a set of perfectly presentable, if not insipid, and well-played dullard achy breaky heart pop tunes, but continual close-ups of his face make it hard not to take note of the tiny tics and mannerisms which construct this public image so lambasted by people with nothing better to joke about, including the pointedly unfunny “James Cunt” cockney rhyming slang. The cheesy sideways glances into the camera, the eyebrow lift, the forced smile that reminds me of Tony Blair… I consider myself a very tolerant person, yet now even I understand why the cynics of the media have taken such a ferociously personal disliking to him.
The complimentary extras of the DVD offer, most interestingly, a documentary, “Being Blunt”, with points of note varying from the crushingly cringeworthy - the most memorable of which being, when asked whether he had ever been in love, Blunt answering “I was once… But I've forgotten how to fall in love” - and informative insights into his life. JB wins himself back a bit of credit, claiming to be a fan of Elliott Smith (*heart*), and giving over his own video footage of his time in the Bosnian war with the British army, the inspiration for Back To Bedlam closer “No Bravery”. The footage and the song hint at Blunt being more than a 2D character made for dartboards and lazy wisecracks, but it's a shame that one of the better songs from a dire display is hidden as a mere footnote.
Disc two is a waste of time, being pretty much the same set as on the DVD disc but with one or two extra tracks. His unadventurous recollection of a mix of well- and lesser-known songs shows the music as it really is: An impersonal dinner party background soundtrack, neither especially intelligent nor noteworthy.
James Blunt has raked in unimaginable amounts of attention with just a few deftly repetitive singles. The Bedlam Sessions is just another stepping stone in the money process, so cheaply produced it would take perhaps 5 purchases - probably by confused grannies looking for the real album for a grand daughters' birthday present - for this horrendous waste of time and effort to make a profit.