After a career that spans four decades, can the Manchester legends offer anything new on their 14th studio album?
If there's one thing that's consistent with the release of a new James album, it's the feeling of nostalgia that takes me back to a time when nightclubs were full of sticky floors, cigarette smoke and sweaty people singing 'Sit Down' spilling 50p beers from their outstretched arms. Now, nearly thirty years later and into an incredible fourth decade, James have returned with their 14th studio album, an admirable feat for any band, especially one that went on haitus for nearly seven years.
Lyrically, Booth sings about the usual themes of love, life and the world's problems, while the band band back him up with the same polished James sound that's similar to their 1999 Millionaires album and 2014's La Petite Mort. It's the combination of horns, trumpets, guitars and keyboards, not to mention Booth's often poetic lyrics, that gives James their signature sound.
A two minute musical introduction kick starts the album on the first track, Bitch. It's a cracking start, with reverberating guitar hitting the wah pedal and a driving bass riff pushing the band through an opening jam before we hear the familiar sound of Booth's voice ringing through. However, after listening to the album the first time around I couldn't quite figure out what it was about it I didn't like. After the second listen I still couldn't figure it out so I listened to it a third time. And then I realised that it was the fact that I couldn't really remember any of the songs, sometimes even immediately after hearing them. There's the single release, Nothing But Love, which is memorable because I've heard it previously on the radio, but even as I write, I'm struggling to remember a stand out track. To My Surprise and Move Down South have good guitar work as does Girl At The End Of The World, which has the familiar resonant slide guitar sound you'd always associate with James. This time round though there's not really any driving, catchy choruses you'd want to sing along to and it's these choruses that usually carry a James album. In fact, on Bitch and Attention, Booth is simply singing the same single word over and over again. Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad album at all, the problem is we're just going over old ground but without anything memorable to prop up the weaker songs. James once said that when making songs they never want to sound like other bands. This means what we get is James just sounding like James. Ordinarily, this is not a terrible thing at all. But when we've been listening to a band that's into it's fourth decade, you can't help but feel you've heard it all before, only what you've heard before is better.