Customer Review

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An unexpectedly poignant mini album from James, 5 Sept. 2010
This review is from: The Morning After (Audio CD)
James fans have been pretty lucky this year, plenty of dates across the UK, Europe, Festivals and an upcoming tour of North America and Mexico and of course two mini-albums the 2nd of which is what is being reviewed.

The first album "The Night Before" took over from where Hey Ma - the first reunion album left off. It was a very enjoyable mainly uptempo record with some of James' best work, particularly the likes of Porcupine and Dr Hellier. It was well documented at the time of the release of that record in May that the follow-up "The Morning After" would be a more low-key affair. As it turns out this is true in the main. Tim Booth has spoke in some detail about how when they record there are a number of slower songs that always get left out as many of their albums aside from Laid are mainly uptempo affairs. The rough plan was to have an album of these slower, more thoughtful songs.

Opener 'Got The Shakes' gets us off to an interesting start with quite a rough vocal from Tim imagining he's an alcoholic who has just beaten his wife and begging forgiveness. The song sounds almost like a headache you may have after a heavy night on "too much gravy" as Tim sings. It ends in quite an experimental manner with Tim shouting "Don't mess with the thunder" and a backing mantra that is hard really to put into words.

'Dust Motes' is familiar to those who saw some recent live shows as they have been playing this regularly in sets, even during festivals. The first half is mainly Tim, a sombre piano and a Laid-era slide guitar. The song seems to be about the bitterness that sets in when one has been left by a partner "I'll forgive you...if you die". The second half of the song picks up the pace and the drums kick in as the bitterness turns to anger. Like many James songs the lyrics feel very personal and quite introspective in this instance. This will probably go down as one of their better slower numbers and is quite a current fan favourite.

'Tell Her I Said So' is different to the first few songs and builds to a mantra "here's to a long life" that is also chanted by a children's choir which is an interesting and unexpected touch. Musically, it feels a little like St Etienne or a 1980s revivalist and actually feels like trance music without it actually being trance! Lyrically it is a highly personal lament from Tim about watching his mother die in some god forsaken old persons home "the staff are cold, the rules are rules - how can children be so cruel". Touching stuff.

'Kaleidoscope' details a paranoid guy who wonders why his wife is always on the phone thinking it's to a lover when really something much more sinister is at play, which we only find out in the twist at the end of the song which is quite clever. It has almost a country-blues feel with tremelo guitars and fluid slide playing from Larry Gott. "I can't afford to divorce" is a line that made me chuckle a little but the song is very affecting as the guy is clearly still in love with his wife which is exacerbating the paranoia. It turns out at the end his wife actually has the cancer and was on the phone to the doctor. Unsettling to say the least but clever.

'Rabbit Hole' is typical James fare really with a really catchy guitar line played throughout and is one of my favourites on the record despite the lyrical content maybe not as being as powerful as what has gone on before. however the song is maybe stronger musically to what has gone on before so I guess it balances itself out "always come prepared whatever the weather" as Tim states. The last song that mentioned the weatehr was that Crowded House classic. Though this is different I can imagine this working well live.

'Make For This City' lyrically about wishing for a better place/world to live as our current world is dull with people not making eye contact. There are mentions of "District Line" so presumably it's about London and a world that lacks compassion and empathy - a theme Tim last explored in "Bring A Gun" some years back. Musically I find it a little dull and unrewarding although there are some lovely keyboard touches. It dares to be boring and ultimately is unfortunately.It reminds me a lot musically of U2's last album actually - please don't shoot me for that! It sounds like something that Eno would approve of.

I absolutely love "Look Away" and in my opinion should be up there with the James classics we all know and love and if it was released in there heyday wouldve been a big single. It has that Jamesian soaring quality but never gets bombastic and has a great use of orchestral sounds curtosy no doubt to Mark's keyboard. It makes you wait until the end of a song for something that semblances a chorus but when it arrives you can't stop chanting "All mirrors. shatter, all plastic clowns, all that really matters is that you weren't in the building when the walls came crashing down". A total classic.

I have mentioned Eno once already and the closer "Fear" is musically much like Eno's best work in the 1980s a la "Apollo" with a fragile, falsetto vocal from Tim in most of the song. It is definitely a cousin to the wonderful "Alaskan Pipeline" from the Pleased To Meet You album. It feels somewhat haunted with icy keyboards and guitars chiming and really has the hallmarks of Eno all over it. Not the most powerful lyrically but an enjoyable ending to a decent mini-album.

I'll be honest and say that I do prefer James in a more "pop" sense which is why I prefer the likes of Rabbit Hole and Lookaway than the more slower numbers, though I greatly appreciate their value too. Ironically I think this album may go down as a classic with fans who have been longing for a Laid follow up. This may be just what you have been looking for. Nevertheless this is still a lot better than any other record I've heard this year and has a nice experimentation to it taking a leaf out of both Laid and Wah Wah but being a good album in it's own right.

Very enjoyable but I hope James go pop next time.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 7 Sep 2010 07:12:31 BDT
Almo says:
Wow, great review. Thanks

In reply to an earlier post on 9 Sep 2010 19:34:12 BDT
Deb Ryan says:
Excellent review...my tastes trend similarly. I love Night Before and much of Hey Ma. Favorite album is Seven and think Whiplash is very underrated. I find the slower pieces a little too self-indulgent.
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