EP Review: Better Than That by James

Posted by Bianca on Friday May 18, 2018 Under Album Review

Review by Rob Johnson

James have always been a great singles band. One of the few artists about which you could confidently state that their Greatest Hits defined a decade, songs such as ‘Sit Down’, ‘Laid’ and ‘She’s a Star’ will forever be ingrained on the public consciousness. A brand-new EP then will always come with a certain level of anticipation. And so, to Better Than That

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Starting with Jim Glennie’s thundering bass and the unmistakable falsetto of Tim Booth, the title track starts off as a minimalist jam before bursting open into a glorious chorus. The repeated refrain of ‘you can do better than that’ works as a call to arms to the ‘asleep’, ‘boring’ and ‘bored’ listener. In a time of bland, pop icons and uninspiring rap superstars, we need a chorus like this. Something to unite those of that remember Britpop and endless summers and guitar albums that dominated the whole world. It’s not quite a spiritual sequel to ‘Sit Down’ but it is certainly an insistent slab of catchy indie rock. Put simply, this is James in excelsis. A band rediscovering their peak almost two decades on.

‘Busted’ is a different beast entirely. Led just by Booth’s thoughtful lyrics and keys, the song is vintage James. Pensive, forlorn and dripping with longing, ‘Busted’ is destined to become a live favourite.

The pounding drums and distorted vocals of ‘Hank’ may not be quite as accessible as the two tracks that precede it but it is still a life-affirming stomp that takes in democracy, CCTV and hotel showers. Booth providing a lyrical smorgasbord as always.

The EP closes on ‘Broken by the Hurt’, a song title surely to grab the attention of any James fan. Booth is often at his best when exploring the darker side of his psyche. Sure enough, it is a gorgeous ballad that perhaps recalls their ‘90s pomp more than any other song on here. James are one of the few bands just as comfortable with a slow tempo singalong as they are a soaring chorus and crunching guitar, ‘Broken by the Hurt’ marries those disparate techniques into a satisfying whole.

It would be disingenuous to say that James are ‘back’ because in truth they never went away. You can’t return to form when you never dipped in the first place. As it goes Better Than This is just another top-quality release in a long line of them from one of the UK’s foremost guitar bands.

‘Better Than That’ – released 18th May 2018 on Infectious / BMG

James’ Festival appearances this Summer:

MAY

Sat 26 SOUTHAMPTON Common People | CO-HEADLINE

Sun 27 OXFORD Common People | HEADLINE

JUNE

Fri 29 LISBON Rock in Rio Festival

JULY

Fri 13 SOUTHWOLD Latitude Festival | HEADLINE 2nd Stage

Sat 14 BILBAO BBK Live Festival

Fri 27 KENDAL Kendal Calling

AUGUST

Sat 11 LITHLINGOW Party at The Palace | HEADLINE

Sat 18 SCARBOROUGH Open Air Theatre | HEADLINE

Thu 30 DUMFRIES Electric Fields | HEADLINE

James have announced that their new album, Living In Extraordinary Times, their fifteenth studio album, will be released on 3rd August.

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