January 22, 2024

James - Hey Ma (2008)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Alternative Rock
Style: Britpop
Label Number: 1766565

© 2008 Fontana
Seven years is not an extraordinarily long time between albums for bands in the new millennium (some bands take considerably longer), so only those who pay attention closely might realize that James split and reunited in the seven years separating 2001's Pleased to Meet You and 2008's Hey Ma. Apart from the lyrics -- the title track opens with an overt 9/11 reference, as Tim Booth sings "now the towers have fallen" -- Hey Ma is such an extension of the band's signature sound that it's possible to think no time has passed at all, yet that isn't quite accurate. Not that the band went out on a low note, but James do sound revitalized, energized by the time apart and, perhaps more importantly, sounding connected to the time at hand, making music for a world in turmoil that needs more voices of protest and hope. Parallels to the fledging years of James cannot be ignored, as the band came to be during the pre-Blair and pre-Clinton years of the '90s, when there was a serious strain of seriousness within rock & roll, thanks in part to the crusading of U2. James shook this stiffness a few years later when they collaborated heavily with Eno, but here they reconnect to the crusading spirit of their earliest work without abandoning the sonic adventure of their late-'90s albums. This means that Hey Ma is intriguing and infuriating in equal measure, as Booth does have the tendency to raise his voice too high in protest. That may rub some listeners the wrong way, but perhaps in an affectionate way because there's a certain charm in how Booth has no concern about whether he goes too far, either in his lyrics or vocalizing. In 2008, there are many bands that attempt the kind of grand, sweeping sound as James -- think all of the post-Radiohead groups that are equally indebted to U2 but are graced with the personality of an Oasis knockoff band -- but James do have more quirks in their sound and plenty of quirks in Booth, who is always willing to act like a fool if it is in service of the greater good. These are the things that make Hey Ma a welcome comeback even for those listeners who may never have been big James fans -- after all, even if they're not quite to your tastes, it's nice to know that James are out there taking chances, unconcerned whether they succeed or not.

 tags: james, hey ma, 2008, flac,


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