The problems of mediocrity face all who encounter [a]James[/a]. Do you pity or scorn them?..
Well, do you? Because here's another and, let's face it, you know exactly how it's going to sound from start to unspectacular finish. Despite an impressively prolific 16-year career, James remain eternal, tedious underachievers. When the endless millennium polls are taken for Best Band, they'll be nowhere to be seen. Because, though 'Sit Down' will always have a place on every student jukebox, James just don't matter.
That's because everything here could have been written by any old band playing any old toilet venue in any city in Britain. While fellow '80s Mancunians The Stone Roses, Happy Mondays and The Smiths wrote songs that were unique, recognisable and inspiring, James could never muster that something special. Their trademark became the ordinary, the bland, the - yawn - reliability of each album.
And, unfortunately, this is an entirely adequate, depressingly typical example. Sounding forever like a poor man's REM or The Smiths without the misfit intelligence and charm, Brian Eno produces and there's barely noticeable guest appearances from Sinead O'Connor and Jamie Catto of Faithless. Apart from a token acknowledgement of dance music in the Electronic briskness of 'I Know What I'm Here For', the rest is a load of soulless love songs like new single 'Just Like Fred Astaire'. Frankly, Tim Booth couldn't sound more bored and insincere if he sang through a huge smirk while studying his fingernails.
Pretend they'd had the dignity to call it a day after the respectable success of last year's 'Greatest Hits' album and act as if this never happened. Because unsurprisingly, it's a 4/10. Not bad, not good, just deathly, endlessly average.
To read all our reviews first - days before they appear online - check out NME magazine, on sale every Wednesday