It’s no secret that the passing of Tim Booth‘s mother feeds the lyrical themes of La Petite Mort, the new James album. It’s no secret either that no songs in this 12th album will be phoned-in reinterpretations of ‘Say something’, ‘Laid’ or ‘Sit down’, the go-to songs most of the fans I know will quote as their faves.
What is truly a surprise is that for a band that’s been riding the merry-go-round of music for 20 years, James is still strong, with Tim Booth’s siren call vocals luring us once more unto emotional sandbanks and shallow reefs.
‘Walk like you’ is a risky 7-minute emotional punch that plays with the musical palette the band knows so well. It’s daring but works wonderfully, setting the atmosphere for what follows. There’s easier going songs, like ‘All in my mind’, ‘Moving on’ and ‘Frozen Britain’, with the last one using a joyous bass line that goes likes peas and carrots with Booth‘s vocals.
Any missteps? Well, sometimes you can’t please everyone. It’s not entirely bad, but ‘Curse Curse’ just doesn’t cut it. James ventures headstrong into EDM, maybe updating the Madchester sounds explored in ‘Come Home’, but the band loses too much of its identity here. Very radio friendly, though, so I’m probably just nitpicking like a proper fanboy that I am. Now, ‘Interrogation’ mixes post punk with subtle electronics and you know what? It works pretty well, injecting the song with a memorable dose of urgency and desperation. Not all experiments work, but all experiments are welcome. Heck, if you knew the outcome of an experiment in advance, it would lose all its excitement!
‘Bitter Virtue’ and ‘Quicken the dead’ are the introspective moments of La Petite Mort, where you can spot the clear sadness, an inherent sound of the band. Cathartic? Damn skippy, dear reader! Heed the warning James leaves: “let’s create art from our pain.” A lesson most necessary.
Words: Sam J. Valdés López.