James – Girl At The End Of The World (2016): Review

james

Label – BMG

Four decades in and it seems that James front man Tim Booth hasn’t run dry of the acerbic wit and self deprecating analysis of a life in music. On “Bitch”, the singer decries his own personal shortcomings of a man satisfied by the trappings of a successful career and comfortable family life (“Love my sons, I love my wife. My life is rich and full. So why’d I bitch, bitch, bitch, bitch, bitch”). Fortunately, his sense of unqualified dissatisfaction still provides the listener with some enduring compositions and “”Girl At The End Of The World” sees the band delivering some memorable moments. Retreating to the Scottish Highlands to write the material, the sonic message to support Booth’s lines mixes in experimental electronic dance music, which to many familiar with previous, more organic indie rock recordings, will come as a mild surprise. Mostly it works effectively, if a little unfocussed, and at times draws vague similarities to former label mates New Order.

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Lead off single “Nothing But Love” bears the least resemblance to the majority of the content within. It’s a big, flag waving, arena filling mid tempo ballad that exalts the joys of love, with Booth’s growing baritone booming through the chorus, and Andy Diagram’s parping trumpet supplying extra emphasis on the level of joyous celebration. Granted the remainder doesn’t stand up to the spirit and sense of wonderment generated by “Gold Mother”, “Seven” and “Laid” from the early 90s, but there’s still some individual moments that bring back some starry eyed reminiscing and reflection. “Feet Of Clay” is a beautiful lilting ballad, the title track is an emotive reflection of Booth’s own mortality, and fittingly closes the collection. Unfortunately, the previous two songs, “Alvin” and “Waking” are the point where any level of technological experimentation can’t mask inferior quality songwriting.

“Girl At The End Of The World” is an album of contrasts; traditional James fayre, gentle ballads and dance beats bounce off each other. Transitional in many ways, it feels as if the band were striving to create a new sound without losing old fans.

7/10

Track Listing

1 – Bitch
2 – To My Surprise
3 – Nothing But Love
4 – Attention
5 – Dear John
6 – Feet Of Clay
7 – Surfer’s Song
8 – Catapult
9 – Move Down South
10 – Alvin
11 – Waking
12 – Girl At The End Of The World

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9 responses to “James – Girl At The End Of The World (2016): Review

  1. Nice! I’m still waiting on my vinyl copy. Amazon predicts two weeks. But I’ve enjoyed what I’ve heard so far. Have you checked the previous two albums?

    • I bought “La Petite Mort” and it wasn’t bad, if a little over produced. The hint at dance beats are on that album, but there seems to be a greater dance influence on this record. Not that it’s a particularly bad thing because they still retain their individuality.

      • Yeah. They were some really great tracks on “La petite mort” but I was a huge fan of “Hey ma” from 2008. Man, I can’t believe it’s been 8 years already. Maybe they’ll tour North America again soon.

      • They have always been a brilliant live act. I saw them in the mid 90s when they were promoting “Whiplash”. The album wasn’t their best but the concert was superb

  2. Geoff I appreciate how you can boil down the overall feel of an album into a closing sentence – I bet that’s the old/new balance a lot of groups are aiming for (even if they don’t acknowledge it out loud).

    • I think it’s difficult for a band in their position. They’ve been around for 30 odd years now and they could very easily churn out album after album of the same. But, by adding a sonically different approach they have to be careful not to alienate their existing audience. It’s a tough balancing act IMO.

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