music review: James

james girl

In 1994, James catapulted into the U.S. spotlight with the cheeky, yet layered single “Laid” from the album of the same name. The band formed in the 80s in Manchester, England. Part of the 90s Britpop wave along with The Stone Roses, Charlatans UK, Blur, Oasis, Happy Monday, Pulp and The Wonder Stuff. I adored Britpop back in the 90s. It was my heart. In 1997 the band released its seventh album Whiplash with the wonderful songs “She’s a Star” and “Tomorrow.” I giddily interviewed bassist James Glennie in 1997 as contributing editor/writer for the Boston zine Instant Magazine.

In the 90s James was one of my favorite bands. When one of my favorite bands returns with new music, I become nostalgic and also apprehensive. I analyzed the words to every song. Cerebral lyrics ranged from self-improvement to politics [google “Sit Down”] . Heartbreaking, comforting, making me feel less a one-off weirdo. If you could wear out a CD I did. Several times over. Seven remains my favorite James album. Favorite songs [many of them!] include: “Sometimes”/ “Say Something”/ “Born of Frustration”/ “Sit Down”/ “You Can’t Tell How Much Suffering (On A Face That’s Always Smiling)” / “How Was It For You?”/ ”Out to Get You”/ She’s a Star.”

Many bands will remain synonymous with the 90s alternative/ indiepop/indierock/Britpop days, many popular 90s-era bands and artists are touring [Smashing Pumpkins, Liz Phair, Belly, Jesus Jones, Radiohead] and some never stopped. Some put out new material sporadically. Is it a comeback or a continuation after a brief hiatus? That’s difficult to say. Musicians generally keep writing, keep recording, keep performing. I thought that James hadn’t released anything since 1997. But that’s not true. The band took a break in 2001 and reformed in 2007. Somehow I missed some of those other James albums such as Millionaires [1999] and The Night Before [2010]. My relationships with music publicists vacillate. Also we know how fickle music consumers can be. Marketing and music sales have dramatically. I still like [or appreciate] many bands I liked in the 90s but it was a different time, a different decade and will always remind me of my 20s when I was insecure and figuring out a path. I’m still questioning myself and my choices.

So now, over 32 years after signing to Factory Records in 1982, James released its fourteenth album Girl at the End of The World on March 18, 2016. This electronica/ indie-rock album soars on the opener “Bitch” with its wah-wah guitar and the slow-burning “Attention” — a call to arms with its bold urgency—as well as the optimistic “Nothing But Love.” Then “To My Surprise” rouses and burns. Gentleness and Tim Booth’s subtler vocals blend with a funkadelic keyboard-based beat on “Dear John.” The best song “Catapult” features an upbeat attitude, deep riffs and a vaudeville arrangement. The current single “Girl at the End of the World” is a good one with its distinctive James-y wave. Another stand-out is “Move Down South” with its haunting beats and thoughtful lyrics about our relationship to the environment—“too late we’re all responsible/ too late to hold a wake/ we’re all drilled out..” Ah James. Be still my heart. Shatter my soul.

–review by Amy Steele

Girl at the End of the World
BMG
release date: March 18, 2016

purchase at Amazon: Girl At The End Of The World

James Discography:

• Stutter (1986)
• Strip-mine (1988)
• Gold Mother (1990) (re-released in 1991 as James)
• Seven (1992)
• Laid (1993)
• Wah Wah (1994)
• Whiplash (1997)
• Millionaires (1999)
• Pleased to Meet You (2001)
• Hey Ma (2008)
• The Night Before (2010)
• The Morning After (2010)
• La Petite Mort (2014)
• Girl at the End of the World (2016)

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