There is a process we all go through when we first play the new album by a band whose debut we evangelised about. Nerves need to be steadied and fears dispelled before we can pass anything approaching calm and clear-headed judgment. With luck, our ardour will be rekindled, our faith reaffirmed. And all of us will, at some time or another, have had the unhappy experience of dashed hopes and shattered illusions, so there’s that niggling worry lurking at the back of our minds, too. Which brings us to This Is All Yours.
More specifically, to the opening bars of the opening song, Intro. Joe’s voice starts the track, a pointillist, percussive “la-la-la-la”, Philip Glass-like in its hypnotic simplicity, before Gus joins in with an answering counterpoint. This is not, as its title might imply, a brief throwaway before the album proper begins. Its middle section, introduced by Thom’s thundering snare pattern, suddenly asserts itself before the song returns to its becalmed opening theme, only to be once again overwhelmed, by a brutal burst of martial drumming and battle cries. But these four minutes 39 seconds do so much more than open This Is All Yours. They also – comprehensively, unanswerably – banish any disquiet about how alt-J were going to handle that scrutiny, that pressure, that level of expectation. You feel yourself exhaling in relief and thinking, “Ah, so this is how they handled it.”