Review Summary: All in all a superb album - though the standard does drop a little in a few of the songs - with a good amount of variety, interesting musicianship, great vocals and above average (At times some of the best you'll hear) lyrics. Worth a 4.5
Jim Glennie-bass guitars
Larry Got- electric, acoustic, slide and e-bo guitars
"Oh sit down, oh sit down, sit down next to me" you could be forgiven for recognizing these lyrics and remembering just how catchy the song they powered is but not knowing who was responsible for the classic pop/indie hit. That band would be James. Hailing from Manchester (One of the best places in the world for alternative music with The Smiths, The Stone Roses, Joy Division and The Happy Mondays to name but a few) James have enjoyed a certain degree of mainstream success whilst still remaining a band which diehard fans will love forever and the average listener will know at least two or three songs by, though may think they split up years ago. However, this review is about their sort-of-comeback album, Hey Ma. So here we go...
Hey Ma is the first highlight of the album. The song begins with a pleasing guitar idea which Booth delivers crystal clear lines over the top of before bursting into life with a trumpet section. Hey Ma boasts one of the most enjoyable choruses I have ever heard; the lyrics of which Booth reveals - in the album booklet the three main song writers tell their own stories of how the album came into being - came out in a jam session fully formed and so he was stuck with them "Hey Ma, the boys in body bags coming home in pieces". The title track is beautiful, powerful and hard hitting at times.
Following Waterfall comes Oh My Heart; this song is one of the best James has ever recorded. The coupling of the guitar work in the verses and the rolling drums keeps the song moving as Booth uses his voice to great effect before the chorus arrives. The chorus here is something special indeed, with a sharp guitar part (beautiful in a twisted way) giving this section it's hook whilst Booth sings "Oh my heart, Oh my heart, come on break me in two" with such conviction it will make the hairs on your arms stand on end. A truly great song which contains emotion and balls in equal measure.
Following 2 decent, though not up to the standard of the rest of the album, songs, comes Upside. Upside is probably my favourite song on the album with it's wistful verses, shimmering guitars, specific yet universal lyrics about being away from the ones you love and some seriously strong guitar. This and the memorable chorus and melodies will have you blasting it out of your car in no time.
Whiteboy follows immediately after Upside and presents a shift in music style; somewhat of a dance/indie/mad-chester vibe going on here, but although the music is entertaining and moves quickly, it's the lyrics on Whiteboy which really shine. The song describes a young man sat at his kitchen table after a big night out (hung over and still a little stoned) as his mother talks at him over the sounds of the radio and television. With lines such as "And I'm all mashed up mum's droning on and on and on and on" "My mum says I look like Yul Brynner, too old for Hamlet too young for Lear" and "Got a pierced lip cause it's still hip to appear queer" Whiteboy will stick in your head as a funny and addictive song.
72 is another shift in style; the song sounds like one of the synth-heavy songs by Muse. Computerized synth/guitar begins the song and is made instantly harrowing when Booth sings "You're going to murder in the name of God, what kind of God are you dreaming of? A God of blood not love." This eventually snaps into an epic chorus with energetic drumming and a battle cry from Booth using the word "War!"
All in all a superb album - though the standard does drop a little in a few of the songs - with a good amount of variety, interesting musicianship, great vocals and above average (At times some of the best you'll hear) lyrics. Worth a 4.5