James : Pleased To Meet You

Baggy veterans' eclectic mess

Few bands can expect their 11th album to provoke anything but a dismissive snort from a world unexposed to those really positive vibes in the studio. Festival-fee junkies James are about to release their 11th album, produced by Brian Eno. Unless you’re Jo Whiley or Mrs Eno, this is clearly a snort-worthy event.

But there’s an exciting development. According to Eno, James are “reborn”. This isn’t the band who clung to the ’90s Madchester scene, nor is it the band responsible for student sing-song ‘Sit Down’. James now refer to themselves in publicity material as one person, with a composite photo made up from their grimly familiar faces.

The digitally enhanced theme extends to much of this record, thanks to Eno’s expensive production and the easy confidence career tail-ends bring. It [I]is[/I] the best James record in a long while and there are some near-inspirational moments – the distorted, mysterious ‘Space’, a ‘Material Girl’-style bassline during ‘Falling Down’ and the disco crazed ‘Gaudi’.

Elsewhere, James criminally persist in utilising Celtic folk and bedsit existentialism. The single ‘Getting Away With It (All Messed Up)’ is a heavy hearted thud of a song and the light, certain touch of the album’s first half is eventually abandoned in favour of those familiar, slow-building ‘anthems’.

This smartly dressed record may allow James to feel at least slightly relevant again. Ultimately, though, there’s a more brutal solution to that problem.

Andre Paine