“Hey Ma.” By James
For those of you that pay attention to these sorts of things, the UK band James broke up in 2002 after delivering, in the opinions of many fans, their best album, 2001’s “Pleased To Meet You.” Now, in the spirit of every other band in the world, James has gotten back together and delivered one hell of a good comeback album, rife with topical songs about war and lies and death and rebirth, as well as personal anthems that apply to daily life, including this reviewer’s.
“Hey Ma” is out now, but it’s not available here in the United States. Apparently the record companies figure that no one’s going to buy an album from a band that hasn’t had a stateside hit in 15 years, but if you check out their MySpace page, (www.myspace.com/jamesisnotaperson) you’ll read fans’ exclamations about how they’re furious they can’t find the album anywhere, as well as demanding to know when U.S. tour dates are surfacing. Imagine that- record companies underestimating the taste of the public. Who woulda thunk it?
Anyway, is the album any good? Is it worth the cries and shouts? Yes. Yes it is. This is, hands down, the best album James has released to date. It’s well worth seeking out and paying the extra charge for the dollars to pounds conversion. Blame the exchange rate on the U.S. government’s ill-advised invasion of Iraq. James certainly does. The album is filled with lyrics of soldiers and death and immigration that don’t come off like senseless pandering to modern times, but more like the band really cares about these issues and wants to talk about them and, in the process, get us talking about them too.
However, the album isn’t all about preaching how war is bad and loved ones are lost through its senseless pursuits. Opener “Bubbles” is one of the most triumphant opening tracks to come along in some time. After a quiet, tinkling piano and thumping bass drum groove along for a bit, the lyrics suddenly explode with singer Tim Booth shouting “I’m alive, I’m alive, I’m alive” to a galloping drumbeat. The song is anthemic in the best sense. First single “Whiteboy” is a fun little throwback to the aforementioned 15 years ago hit “Laid.” Whiteboy is funkier than anything they’ve done before, at first feeling like a little jam throwaway but getting stuck in the brain with a great chorus nonetheless. Closer “I Wanna Go Home” is pure sad genius, a tale of a man whose drinking has cost him everything he held so dear. Poignant stuff.
The point of a review like this is to sometimes point out diamonds in the rough and sometimes to just advise that a band you’re interested in has new stuff out. However, there’s an imperative here that must be said: GO BUY THIS ALBUM. If you ever liked this band, you will not be disappointed with “Hey Ma.” Not even close. The songs keep getting better and better, each one moreso than the last. I’m stealing this next bit from another reviewer: It’s the kind of album that you keep on thinking that the song you’re listening to at the moment is your favorite until the next one starts, and then you remember that one is your favorite, and so on.
This is energetic music, wholly alive. This is James in 2008. And thankfully, it’s just like they’ve never gone away.
U.S. tour dates are rumored for the fall 2008. Keep checking that MySpace link, as well as www.wearejames.com