I wouldn’t call myself a hardcore fan of the Manchester 7-piece indie rock group James, but having heard and enjoyed their previous output I was looking forward to getting a taste of their first full-length album in 6 years, ‘La Petite Mort’.
Since the group first formed in 1982 almost everything they’ve touched has turned to gold. And the music they produce continues to be of the high standard they hit in the 1990s, appealing to an ever widening fan-base. The tone of this record is beautiful; uplifting at points and melancholic in other moments – the listener is taken on a cinematic ride through the band’s diverse soundscape. The album’s closer ‘All I’m Saying’ repeats the lyric ‘ride a wave, from our birth to the grave’ and this album feels like that wave, taking us on an upwards journey of euphoria up to the aggressive ‘Interrogation’, and then gently letting us down through the more serene numbers ‘Bitter Virtue’ and ‘All In My Mind’. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aWPgJkOdUZU The collaboration with BAFTA winner Ainslie Henderson on the video of ‘Moving On’. ‘La Petite Mort’ was recorded just after the death of singer Booth’s mother and his best friend, something reflected in his powerful lyrics of death and mortality. His haunting images, however, don’t affect the group’s classic anthemic sound, and they continue whacking out tracks perfect for the coming summer. The Killers-esque ‘Curse Curse’ lays an electro dance beat underneath the chorus ‘pour me more tequila’ and gives you that summer festival nostalgia of daytime drinking and throwing your hands in the air; the feeling that edgy pop songstress Lorde hates. The album has a sound similar to younger indie rock bands, think White Lies and guitar undercurrents vaguely reminiscent of The Black Keys. At times I found the repetitive lines slightly unsatisfying and occasionally the verse-bridge-chorus structure quite forced, however the occasional intermingling of trumpet and strings relieves these minor frustrations. For example the bass-driven ‘Gone Baby Gone’ presents an interesting bareness that stands out. Booth’s melodic vocals ring out over single instruments in the verses, in contrast to the ensemble backed chorus. Perhaps the thing I enjoyed the most about this record is the blends. The blend of hauntingly melancholic lyrics with euphoric beats and uplifting choruses, the journey from rockish ‘that-summer-feeling’ tracks through to the almost honky-tonk feel of ‘Quicken The Dead’ where we are ordered to ‘rejoice’ amongst Mark Hunter’s swirling piano playing. The blends of trumpets, violins, heavy percussion and electro beats overall contribute to the group’s stirring sound. The influence of producer Max Dingel, a man who has collaborated with likes of The Killers, White Lies and Muse, is clear. All in all this means La Petite Mort is one of those records that you feel like you’ve heard before but can’t quite understand why. Whether a fan of the boys or not, James’ new album is bound to get our heads bobbing and us singing along to Booth’s unfaltering falsetto amidst catchy choruses and euphoric melodies. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zcaqjJ3G4BM ‘La Petite Mort’ is due for release Monday 2nd June. Online -
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https://twitter.com/wearejames Words by Graeme du Plessis