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4.6 out of 5 stars
61
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 2 April 2017
good album however i may be biased as fan never found a poor album by James. Get to see them in concert if you have the chance!
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on 11 April 2008
With all the mixed fan and press reviews I was expecting very little from this album. But blow me down, it bowled me over. It is everything it could and should have been. There is more heart and soul in one of these songs than many bands manage in a whole career. It is a remarkable record, a real career highlight and the band should be as proud as punch that they have delivered something as beautiful and uplifting as this. There are elements of Laid, Strip mine and Seven but it works as its own album. Of course there is the odd daft Tim Booth lyric, it wouldn't be a James album without it. He tells us on the title track that war is bad. Just in case you were unsure. But that's ok, just like seeing a beautiful girl in a daft pair of trousers, its almost endearing.

And that aside, it's a beautiful, hopeful, elegant, bloody brilliant record.
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VINE VOICEon 18 May 2008
I've only been a James fan since my uncle recommended Millionaires. I bought that, and quickly followed it up with the Best Of and, a couple of years later, Pleased to Meet You. I was gutted when James split, and when I heard they were releasing a new album I was delighted. I had already had a preview of what might be included on the album from a live show at in April 2007. What I remembered from that a song amazingly and unashamedly anthemic, in a way that nothing on the two albums I had really was, but in a way that many of their greatest hits - from Waltzing Along to She's A Star - are. That song was Upside, and if I had my way, it would be a massive summer hit that'll have the kids on the school buses and the crowds of the festivals singing along - it still may be.

In fact, this is the most radio-friendly James album I have, and the most immediate. On my first listen the full and delightful sound (including brass, strings, fascinating backing vocals and Tim Booth's hazy, rhythmic and at times in-your-face vocals) left me feeling very excited. But in addition to that, the songs really hit me.

Hey Ma, White Boy and Waterfall are the other anthems, but in a way which leaves them (particularly the first and third) not sounding like other James songs have before. Perhaps my favourite song on the album is Of Monsters and Heroes and Men. It builds, and builds, and builds (with a little of Out To Get You about it), and never quite cracks. It is full of words, and live would be a shivers-down-your-spine moment.

Overall, this album feels like James at their creative best. It has everything a James fan would want and more. The music is interesting and engrossing, the songs are at times anthemic and at times downbeat, and the sense is one of excitement.

I've heard the old 'dad rock' labels rolled out, as well as criticisms for James writing songs about being old. But they are older - to write about what they wrote about 20 years ago would be dishonest. Take James for what they are - a heroic band in their middle age who make the sort of music you can fall in love with. This album is full of it.
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on 30 June 2008
When I first heard James was reuniting, my heart was being tugged on in two directions. I would love to hear James again, but I was expecting a half hearted attempt at rekindling the magic that made James such a good band in the first place. "Hey Ma" proves my doubts wrong, and then some.

"Bubbles" begins the album with a song about new life, describing Tim Booth's joy as a father. This song is reminiscent of Laid era work - uplifting, but atmospheric. While Eno isn't here to produce this album, his presence is still felt.

But the sound quickly shifts to jam-based anthemic rock that James successfully mastered with "Gold Mother" and "Laid." "Hey Ma" might be described as an optimistic protest song. Tunefully, it's a classic. In the chorus, Tim Booth loudly proclaims "Hey ma, your boys in bodybags coming home in pieces." It's very poetic, and there's really no reading between the lines.

Elsewhere on the album, there's a theme of age and growing older. "Waterfalls" deals with materialism while the single "Whiteboy" sounds autobiographical with the wonderful line "My mom says I look like Yul Brenner/Too old for Hamlet and Too young for Lear."

Still, one of my favorite gems on this album is "Oh My Heart," a song where the singer asks to have his heart broken. It's anthemic and once again features James taking bleak moments and making them somehow uplifting. The lyrics are simple, but the breadth of feeling in this and the other offerings on this album make it a winner.

What makes Hey Ma so great though is that it feels like James of many many years ago. While jamming and experimentation did prevail on the last two albums, there seemed to be more rigid structure and thus rigid performances. Conversely, Hey Ma feels loose, fun and raw, but not without the ideas from the Eno years. It's rare that a band that has been around for 25 years can come back and sound this fresh and energetic. I have read many reviews that compare James to U2. Yet I feel U2 stopped making relevant albums (musically) sometime ago, lurking into more adult contemparary fare. James thrusts back onto the scene that could give some of the younger bands a run for their money. If you're still doubtful, check out recent live performances. As Tim Booth proclaims on "Bubbles," 'I'm Alive.' As I listen to this album, I believe it.
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on 4 August 2010
James have always been a great band, but they've always been underrated, and unfortunately it seems that there will always be critics preventing them from getting as much recognition as they deserve. One of the first bands the 're-form' a lot of the aforementioned critics just dismiss any work that James produce as 'nothing special'.
Shame on the critics! 'Hey Ma' is the first album from James since the band re-formed, and it truly justifies the band getting back together again. There is a bit of everything on this album, from tender quiet moments such as the mid-album track 'Semaphore' which surrounds Tim Booths ever-reliable lyrics and vocals with an enchanting swirl of different instrumentals, to the majestic soaring moments, brilliantly displayed on opener 'Bubbles' which makes full use of its 5+ minute length, starting small before gradually growing into something wondrous, and of course the triumphant-sounding choruses, 'Upside' and 'Hey Ma' locking straight into memory after a single listen.
Tim Booth hasn't lost a trick as a songwriter, and rather than hiding away from getting older, he embraces it, especially on 'Waterfall', and even more so on 'Whiteboy' which is full of darkly humorous lyrics, and has a sound somewhat reminiscent of 'Sometimes' from 1993's LAID album (in my opinion at least).
There are no weak tracks on this album, although some do take a couple of listens to truly appreciate. I don't have an actual favorite track, but I'd definitely recommend 'Bubbles' 'Hey Ma' 'Boom Boom' 'Upside' 'Whiteboy' and 'Of Monsters & Heroes & Men'
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on 14 September 2009
Im writing this review immediately after listening to the album.

I've been an avid fan of James for some time, but to some i'm probably a late bloomer, after buying their 'Just Like Fred Astaire' single and then purchasing the 'Millionaires' album which I thoroughly enjoyed. It was primairly in my teens where I took interest in the band but over time my tastes have changed and I persued other artists, especially after their suprising hiatus. I was slowly forgetting about them and knowing they won't be returning didn't give me much faith in following them any further. Their 'Best Of' is clearly one of the best compilations released in the past few decades and is a definite favourite of my collection. I can safely say after hearing this album they have clearly returned with such a maturity only other bands similar can admire to; not only have they been able to carry off their amiable sound for over 20 years, but they have also been able to improve their song writing and Tim Booth doesn't fail with his perceptive lyrics and unprecedented singing voice. The album proves that even after so long, James can return, maintain an undecayed sound, work together as they once did and establish a punchy, ripened tone.

Most of the tracks on the album are of superior quality, but the ones listed are personal favourites. The opening track 'Bubbles' opens well with a compelling chorus until the end. 'Waterfall', a no-brainer choice as a single, is a charming track which plods along with another righteous chorus and a maturity which shines throughout. 'Upside' is an engaging track and with a welcoming and hopefully concrete return, Andy Diagram, who flaunts his fantastic trumpet skills. 'Hey Ma' is another amiable track from the album with acoustic and wind infused instrumets married with powerful lyrics. 'Whiteboy' is an instant hit from the start with Booth's vocal dexterity creating an enthusiastic and solid anthem.

I advise all James fans to purchase this compelling comeback album. It might not be as good as 'Pleased To Meet You' (in my opinion one of the best albums I own) but for me to say this album has bought me back into following James and enjoying all their releases again says so much. I'm also sure that I can say for a lot of fans, that another set of new tracks from James is never unwelcomed. I also advise those who don't have an interest or havn't heard a song by James and want to buy an album out of the blue but don't want to dive in at the deep end, to do so. Here's hoping they'll stay together for many more years and bring out some more releases!
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on 27 November 2008
I had no idea 'James' were back together and recording, let alone releasing a new album, such is the amount of press this new album has received!!! Which is really undeserved.

I wasn't sure what to expect from this latest offering, its been well over a decade since their last album, could they cut it anymore? Or would they be a sad embarrasment of their former selves? Oh yee of little faith!!! 'James' were responsible for some of the best indie rock anthems of the early and mid 90's, but also wrote some great, very poignant lyrics and they have come back with an album that shows more creativity and heart in one track than some of the more "mainstream/popular" bands have in a whole album.
Standout tracks for me are "I wanna go home" and the title track "Hey ma" which is both musically uplifting, yet has the lyrics "boys in bodybags coming home in pieces."

A great album and deserving of high praise and acclaim. I urge everyone to take a listen.
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It starts magnificently, "Bubbles" now figuring in my top five James songs. It's a tremendous track, starting quietly, suddenly exploding into life, and turning into a glorious chorus of the words "I'm alive!" repeated over and over again. The word "euphoric" doesn't do it justice.

The title track is also pretty good, if marred slightly by its "hey ma, the boys in body bags coming home in pieces" chorus. "Waterfall" is also great, as is "Oh My Heart", although something strange happens to Tim Booth's voice and he ends up sounding a little like Kermit from the Muppets for some reason!

After that, the album fades somewhat, as most of the James albums I've heard seem to do. There are still good tracks to be found, but the pace slows in general, and after such an invigorating high-octane opening salvo of tracks, the album is a little disappointing from the fifth or sixth track onwards.

That said, I'm still intrigued to hear what they do next...
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on 7 April 2008
Wow what a comeback album this is, I encourage all James fans, old and new to investigate....

Bubbles

One of the best James songs ever written. The starting of the song is very similar to the like of Laid album/The Lake stylistics but explodes into a very beautiful passionate song which seems to be about a new born life with a great future. Just a brilliant opening track. transferred from live performance to record seamlessly. You will be singing 'I'm alive' for months. Uplifting stuff! 10/10

Hey Ma

It may be 16 years on but the song Mother is still a haunting track and Hey Ma is no different lyrically, but it is a very uplifting song musically which contrasts so well with the deep lyrics being sung about 9/11, Iraq and Afghanistan and particularly about consequences of your actions. This sort of shows the best and worst of Tim's voice, there is a point where he sings 'coming home' in a kind of a strained way yet somehow im transported back in time to the early 90s in other places. Strange, but great, pointed lyrics. 9/10

Waterfall

This could probably the succesor to Say Something, my feeling on this song is that it is wonderful but at times the production is too heavy and almost sags under its own weight like the latest Manics album does. There are parts I love to this song such as the lovely verse guitars and backing vocals in the chorus and the chanted verse is particularly wonderful. The 'Im so cynical bit' is the part I think goes over the top perhaps for me. Again the underlying feeling of Laid but production values of Seven 8.5/10

Oh My Heart

Very anthemic in a Booth and The Bad Angel meets Seven kind of way, I read a review which says an 'old-school' James anthem. I can hear U2 in the guitar as well which puts me back to the Seven album. There is something about it that doesn't win me over in the same way the previous songs did, but the fact that I'm giving the first four tracks at least 8/10 bodes very well for the rest of the album. The fact that there is loads of guitar in this track is great and is as far away from Pleased To Meet You as my bloody football team winning the title! This could really soar live as well a real out-there number. 8/10

Boom Boom

A song which at first didn't really grab me and thought was not fantastic. However it started getting ingrained in my head and for days I had the melody in my head. It has a dominant trumpet line. This is a song similar to Were Going To Miss You lyrically in terms of hitting back at the critics of the band who had written them off. It is quite a dark melancholic song with an orchestral ending. 7/10

Semaphore

A very beautiful slow number about a man who has hit a woman realising what he's done. 'But its too late for sorry' Fantastic echoey guitar and bass with some fantastic lyrics. The slowest song on the album which allows pause for reflection for what we've heard already. 8/10

Upside

First aired at least a year ago at some of the gigs last year. It is the one song I'm truly disappointed with, it doesn't really do anything for me. It's about immigrants being away from their loved ones. For some reason it doesn't work for me, I think it is in the arrangement somewhere and the chorus also doesn't work for me. Not what I was expecting. A bit of a mess. 5/10.

Whiteboy

I love this track, it's the most fun and uplifting track since laid. This really is the 'old-school' James track I had been looking for, a mile away from the poor 'What Is It Good For' et al the whole song is what sums James up for me; fun, slightly goofy, uplifting, estoric, catch as fcuk particularly love the way the 2nd verse explodes into the 'Wanna talk to me Whiteboy' 2nd chorus just whisks you away! 9/10

72

A song about religion and brings up strong imagery of suicide bombers. The darkest song on the record although ironically a little funky with a dark electronic backdrop and rythmn section. The chorus of WAR will be ingrained in your head immediately. 7.5/10

Of Monsters Heroes and Men

This song is based on an extended poem full of imagery. This was played love at the September Hoxton shows. It's an interesting song that builds up to a kind-of mantra at the end with Andy's trumpet kind of taking over the song. Again it doesn't have much of an effect of me compared to what has gone before. 6/10

I Wanna Go Home

This is brilliant. A wonderful yearning song, although a bit too short. It is about a guy in a bar full of remorse, dying of a remorse. A fantastic closing track with effects coming in and out and builds to a crescendo of 'I wanna go home right now', awe-inspiring and I can personally identify with the lyrics as well. I just wish it could have gone on longer. 10/10

Child To Burn (Itunes Deluxe track)

This is an extremely beautiful Wah Wah/Laid style track with slide guitar, and Tim in falsetto most of the time. Extremely atmospheric. 9/10

Overall

A totally fantastic album overall, miles better than the last two albums. It sounds totally 'together' and everything hangs together well. Apart from one or two flawed songs, mainly in terms of arrangements this contains some of the best James songs ever written. Yes it possibly lacks anthems in a 'singles' way, however it is closer to Laid in spirit in terms of lyrics and some of the music. There are moments of a bigger sound, with A Seven-esque production value namely Oh My Heart and Waterfall. This is now my 3rd favourite James album, and only Laid and Whiplash better this one. In terms of a comeback album this is so much more than I and James fans could have hoped for. Ignore those stupid reviews that give this 1 and 2 stars they obviously can't hear the beauty within. Dream Thrum score. 8/10 - a mighty album.
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on 16 April 2008
Comeback albums can always have that air of 'better times are in the past' about them. 'Hey Ma' - James' first album in over 6 years is a very rare creature in the 'comeback' zone - it sounds energetic, full of fresh ideas and contains a consistent collection of great tunes / arrangements. Tracks like the opening 'Bubbles', the title track and 'I wanna go home' are anthemic. These guys aren't recording this on a yacht in the Bahamas or at their £50m mansion somewhere in the Swiss Alps - these guys sound as angry and enthusiastic as ever. I am not a huge James fan but have to say this is probably the best 'comeback' album I have heard in many years. There are a lot of influences here over and above James themselves - Bowie, U2, a bit of Ray Davies in the vocal style. Truly excellent. Ignore the duff reviews - they are missing the point. This will be one of the best albums of 2008 when we look back in December.
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