James - The Night Before EP

Like trying on an old pair of glasses; it’s all blurry at first, but soon everything is clear.

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Released 19 Apr 2010 | Mercury | By Francis Jolley | Rating: 3-5
James - The Night Before EP

As a band that has been together for over twenty five years, James still sound as fresh as a daisy. Their chart-topping days, however, are behind them. As one of the best singles bands of the 90s, they always had a few big hitters on board each album. With 2008’s ‘Hey Ma‘, they made their first album to have barely any airplay on Radio 1, not helped by the political lyrics of the chosen singles; Tim Booth singing from the heart. James seem tired of the commercial rat race and are back for themselves and for the fans.

‘The Night Before’, produced by Lee ‘Muddy’ Baker rather than their muse Brian Eno, is very James. The trembling bass lines, slide guitars and ambient keyboards are all in check, like returning friends. Tim Booth’s voice is the same now as twenty years ago, but whereas then they would push for catchier tunes (‘I Know What I’m Here For’, ‘Destiny Calling’), they now seem happier to release their more in-depth album jams. It takes a few listens to absorb the EP, but like most James releases, they it unlocks its secrets slowly. ‘Ten Below’ seems to mutate on each spin, if not for the blue language it surely would be a radio hit. ‘It’s Hot’ bubbles with synths, and its climbing chorus is perfectly addictive. ‘Porcupine’ is the most ‘James’ track on offer, it’s very ‘Laid’-era with its sparse slide guitar. ‘Dr Hellier' is their odd take on Pixies that actually works. The standout track is ‘Crazy’, a biographical song written around Tim Booth’s time off from James with liver disease.

‘The Night Before’ is uplifting, engaging and a band at ease with their sound. Listening to James is like trying on an old pair of glasses; it’s all blurry at first, but soon everything is clear. Bring on the next EP.