by Michael Thomas
“I would highly not recommend anyone do it like this,” Jim Cuming tells me over Skype. He’s talking about his new album, I Need Love, which is unlike anything he’s done before. Recordings like In The Dark on 99 and The Black Pits are vintage Jom Comyn, featuring Cuming’s rich, deep voice and beautifully arranged guitar-centric music.
And then this new album came along, in which Cuming tackles a whole bunch of genres, from country to Motown to drone. It’s also 28 tracks. It was a monumental undertaking that was also largely self-produced, and it’s a wonder to behold. It’s dreamlike at times, jarring at others, and really must be absorbed all at once to fully take in.
One could consider this album the final installment of a trilogy with In the Dark and Black Pits considering that Cuming had all three in the works around the same time. In late 2015 he called I Need Love a “big, messy record” and looking back on that now, he says the album came out exactly as he had envisioned, But you can still call the record messy, in a fun way.
“I knew objectively it would be a big messy record, different genre every song, songs bleeding into one another, up and down and all around,” Cuming says. “But that was deliberate. I thought it would be kind of fun to do.”
Given that there are 28 songs on the album and it was about love, Cuming had initially planned to release one song every day in February. But as mentioned above, the album works a lot better, so he instead released it in a traditional format. The songs work better as a whole experience not just because you can be surprised by all the genres he takes on, but because some songs flow right into each other, and some songs are barely more than 30 seconds long.
There wasn’t really much rhyme or reason to how Cuming divided the tracks, but he did take the entire album’s length into account. He loves the way the Beach Boys, for example, could create a perfect-fit album like that.
“I always loved the idea of that kind of thing, but I thought you had to be some kind of genius in order to do it,” Cuming says. “But really you don’t have to.”
Why tackle so many genres in one album? Why the hell not?
“When I was 13 or 14 I got really into Frank Sinatra and Johnny Cash and Bob Marley all at the same time. Everybody listens to all three of those. A good song is a good song,” Cuming says. “I wanted to write an album of love songs so I though that’d be fun. Once you’re in that mode, you can make a love song out of fucking anything. The entire history of western music is regular, heterosexual love songs. I’ve been listening my entire life, they’re on the radio all the time, they’re embedded in the base of my musical brain.”
Over the course of the album, whether it’s a soft song, a song like “Resistance” with its intense guitars, or the old-timey feel of the introduction, it all is recognizably work by Jom Comyn. But one song at the end, “Why Do You Love Me,” is an incredible piece of work one might have not associated with Cuming. It’s a Motown-inspired song that is huge and joyful, so it’s no surprise that he had an extra-large supporting cast for this song. While most songs are just Cuming (with a few appearances from Mitch Holby), the list of players for “Why Do You Love Me” is massive.
For this song, Cuming enlisted the help of Renny Wilson.
“He’s awesome, he knows all about that music, he knows how to get that right technique,” Cuming says. It was Wilson who suggested the huge rhythm section and getting a player for each instrument. “He’s on this old analog board and mixing it to be really brittle and AM-sounding. If he didn’t want to do it then I probably just wouldn’t have done it.”
Another novelty for this album: it was not released on vinyl.
“Vinyl is still the undisputed king, but to the majority of music-consuming, we’re in a format-optional time,” Cuming says. While he considered vinyl, the high cost and wait times were off-putting. And let’s be real—all vinyl also comes with a digital download. Cuming’s partner, Jill Stanton, had talked to him about creating some kind of special artwork, and that’s when Raymond Biesinger from the Famines told Comyn about a company in England that produces posters. Thus, the colourful poster with Cuming’s face became the accompaniment to this epic album-length tribute to love.
“There were still quite a few fans at the release show who just assumed there would be vinyl even though I never said it would be on vinyl,” Cuming said.
Laughing, he adds, “I think they were a little disappointed.”
Starting this Saturday, April 8, Cuming will be touring Europe for a month, and while he doesn’t have anything else lined up at the moment, you can expect some Canadian dates in the future too.
What’s next, musically, for Jom Comyn? He won’t be tackling a bunch of genres for his next record. “[The] next thing I do will be much more straightforward,” Cuming says.
While you wait to see what he comes up with next, take an extra few listens to I Need Love. Follow the Bandcamp’s instructions and listen to it all at once, in a dark place. Or maybe while staring at the poster of his face. How do you feel?