James have constantly tried to improve upon their original formula. Hits like ‘Laid’ and ‘Sit Down’ are surely remembered by most, but a band needs to consistently write hit songs to stay relevant, it seems these days. Their 2013 effort ‘La Petite Mort’ was somewhat of a reinvention for the band, and their best effort in a while. The band proclaim on their site, in a mocked up review from a review outlet, that it is definitely the best work they have produced… since their last album. Could they follow it up successfully with their new album ‘Girl At The End Of The World’?
The first signs are pointing towards a yes, more than a no. ‘Bitch’ starts the album with a plodding bassline so groovy that we dare you to not dance to it. The vocals do not enter the track until roughly halfway through, which is frustrating, as it leaves you with the feeling of wanting more from it, like a starter before the main course. If ‘To My Surprise’ is the main course, let’s hope there are seconds. The song starts with catchy, brilliant guitar and layered vocals in the bridge, before launching into an odd chorus. It’s trying to sound like three things at once, which are hard to decompose due to the multi-layered approach – but it is nonetheless great, with some great guitar work throughout the song.
‘Nothing But Love’ is a more standard affair for James, and sadly a weak choice for a ‘single’. In inverted commas for a reason, the song has not been officially released as is often the case for bands these days – and rather unexpected perhaps from a band releasing music thirty years on in a more digital than physical world. The song does not really get going, as does the following song ‘Attention’. Whilst a better song overall, it did not really grasp anyone’s attention until the end of the song, with a guitar riff that should have lasted for longer, and been introduced earlier.
Elsewhere on the album, there seems to coupled counterparts in terms of quality. ‘Feet of Clay’ is another lightweight track that shimmers by your ears too quickly, but ‘Dear John’ counters it with a love song ready to dump people with. ‘Alvin’ is an odd track, sparse in lyrical content, but vivid in throwing a curveball to the album in its almost Eurovision-worthy style.
When the album is listened to as a collective piece, it’s great, but not fantastic. There are moments that shine, like parts of ‘Attention’ and the all-together fantastic ‘Catapult’ and ‘To My Surprise’ which far outweigh the sour notes on the album. It would be little shock if they did quite literally reinvent the wheel at some point. James have to be commended for trying to continue their wheel of relevance, and we hope they continue this for as long as they can do. There may be a girl at the end of the world, but let’s not be foolish and not expect James to join her.
‘Girl At The End Of The World’ is out Friday the 18th of March.