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james - 'Better Than That' EP Review


1. Better Than That

2. Busted

3. Hank

4. Broken By Hurt

james are back and, for me, it’s about time! Ever since I first heard “Sit Down” on Mark Goodier’s Evening Session (showing my age now!), I’ve always had a soft spot for them…especially since they resisted the urge to throw themselves into the Madchester melting pot and steered their own eclectic course. And they’ve always had great songs - “Born Of Frustration”? Loved it, bought the single. “Laid”? Ditto. However, having spent the last three months in an office where they insisted on listening to a certain decade based radio station I am desperately in need of some new jamesitude in my life.

So it was with the over eagerness of the swottiest of all swots, that I raised my hand when Sean asked if anyone wanted to review the first new stuff from james since 2016.

Opening and title track “Better Than That” (also the name of the new album and upcoming tour) is great – upbeat and feels like a rallying call against the modern worlds sedation by science and taming by technology with Tim reassuring you that “You can do better than that”. You listen and you know it’s james but it strangely (given the start of this sentence) doesn’t sound like any of their previous songs.

“Busted” is a bit more of a mellow track and builds itself through the song with the introduction of beautiful horns; it has the vibe of someone who’s resigned to their latest failure in love declaring himself “Bust Again”. Yet you know the hurt is there, with the self deceiving declarations that “I’m not dreaming about you tonight…”

Third track “Hank” is full of buzzing guitars and distorted vocals. It’s hard not to feel the distaste for the current state of the world with references to “White Fascists in the White House” and “…your Russian stew”. It’s a kind of industrial sound and not one I would have expected from james, but it works. It’ll be interesting to see how they transfer it to the live shows when they head out later this year. One slightly weird thing about this track is that it contains the line “Why put your faith in facts when you can lie?”, which I am fairly sure was the line I used to explain being kicked out of A-Level History!

Final track is “Broken By The Hurt” which (in a nod to the reason why I was never an A&R person) is my favourite. A dark, melancholic song it has one of those guitar lines that feels familiar and draws you into the track. Add to that Tim’s great voice, where you can almost hear his voice breaking with the emotion, and you have a beautiful track.

This is a great return from james and has restored my love for the diversity and brilliance of their music. Although the official release date for the EP is 18th May, the band have been releasing “Busted”, “Hank” and “Broken By The Hurt” online track by track so you may already be familiar with them. If you are, you’ll know how great this EP is and if you’re not, then get yourself on line and soak it up.

Review - Chris Watson

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