James have plenty to say on this, their 15th studio album. The Mancunians are back to their best with their catchy beats and wonderful moving melodies.
It’s hard to believe they formed back in 1982, yet they still sound as fresh as they did in their heyday when they hit the big time with Laid off their ‘93 album of the same name.
James is a band that makes me smile. Over the years they have caught my imagination, surprised me with their catchy riffs, and not been scared to approach themes that many bands, then and now, shy away from.
This album, unlike their last two offerings, Girl At The End Of The World, and La Petite Mort, has a sense of urgency, verging on anger, at world events, matters of the heart, and time lost with family.
Hank, What’s it all About, and Many Faces spotlight the growing political distaste towards Donald Trump and the general international uncertainty, highlighting the disquiet they feel in the face of these extraordinary political times. The line off Many Faces, “there’s only one human race, many faces, everybody belongs here”, captures the sentiment well as it fades away at the end of the track.
Coming Home yanks on the heartstrings and brings a tear to the eye, illuminating the challenges so many of us have getting the balance of family and work right. Tim Booth reflects on this topic and, while mindful of the pains and mistakes from the past and still grappling with guilt, he is determined to get it right this time. The track flows wonderfully, really comes from the heart and is one of the standouts of the 16-track album.
Better Than That is another song worthy of a mention. It starts with an offbeat and wailing vocals leading into a thunderous chorus urging the listener to forget about yesterday and start the next day as an opportunity to be better. “Live like today is your last day” is not bad advice.
The only real niggle comes from the number of tracks. Running to just over 73mins it would be hard for even the most hardened fan not to lose a little interest. The final two songs, Overdose and Trouble, seem a little less relevant than the rest and detract rather than add to the overall feel of the album.
However, those minor quibbles aside, James deliver everything we have come to expect...big boisterous and rousing choruses mixed with delicate moments and thoughtful lyrics. Tim’s voice is still true and just as strong as during their purple patch in the mid-90s and early 2000s.
A true return to form, which should be welcomed by diehard fans and is well worth a listen to the uninitiated.
Even better, James hit our shaky isles in November when we can hear the old and new tracks being brought to life. I was fortunate to have seen them last time and it was quite magical. I expect this to be another extraordinary moment not to be missed.
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Released: 03 Aug 2018