BETTER THAN THAT
Release Date: 18 May 2018
Manchester band James release Better Than That, an EP of new material ahead of a sold-out UK tour and new album. Louder Than War’s Martin Unsworth checks it out…
There are not many bands who will release an EP of new tracks just months before a new album is set to appear. But then, there are not many bands like James.
Better Than That opens the four-track release, and features some classic James touches, from the driving bass to Tim Booth’s soaring vocal styling (although his high notes during the breakdown are a little too much for this listener’s ear) and a bouncy chorus. Add some psychedelic backward guitar and it’s a catchy if off-the-wall entrée to the band’s new material.
One of the songs played during some shows last summer, Busted is a sombre track that wouldn’t have been out of place on 2014’s La Petite Mort, which is saved from being another plod-along crooner by the interjection of Andy Diagram’s rousing trumpet and a freak out middle eight.
Hank, by contrast, is full of tribal-beats and distorted vocal and guitar effects that might not be too instant but shows a bold direction and, as ever for James, the lyrics say a lot about our current state of the world. “Why put your faith in facts when you can lie?” Booth asks, and it’s not hard to guess who he’s getting at. It’s just a shame it’s over before it really gets going (although does contain more high pitch notes from Tim!).
Closing track Broken by the Hurt is arguably the most James-like of the set. The stunning bassline gives it an almost sleazy groove not heard in the other three songs, while the challenging lyrics are what fans have come to expect from the band who’ve always pushed the boundaries of subjects for songs.
Two of the tracks (the lead song and Hank) are apparently on the currently-untitled album, however, it’s the last track that is the strongest of this set, and will no doubt become a fan favourite for many years to come. It’s great to hear drums and guitars to the fore in the songs once more. They are used to complement the other instrumentation perfectly to create, not a regular ‘pop song’ but some exciting and interesting aural treats.
If this is a true taste of what’s to come, then we can’t wait for the album.
The Better Than That EP is available on 10” record and download, and the CD is exclusively from the band’s website.
James play a sold-out tour of the UK between May 16th and May 25th before starting a summer festival season with appearances at Common People (Southampton – May 26th, Oxford – May 27th), Rock in Rio Lisboa – June 29th, Latitude Festival (July 13th), Bilbao BBK Live – July 14th, Kendal Calling – July 27th, Party at the Palace, West Lothian – August 11th, Scarborough Open Air Theatre – August 18th, and Electric Fields – August 30th.
James’ website is here: wearejames.com.
All words by Martin Unsworth. You can read more from Martin by checking out his LTW author archive.