James - Hey Ma

2008-06-27 07:59
These days, the same fan is more likely to randomly burst into "Hey Ma, the boys in body bags /comin’ home in pieces", because the album's title track is just as catchy, just as unmistakeably Jamesian as the classic "Laid". Although some of the new songs will take longer to settle in your mind than the well known party hits do, they’re loveable once you get to know them.

Sure, the ever-bourgeois, now middle-aged James are a tad awkwardly socially concerned, and less viciously delicious than in the days of "Laid". But Tim Booth - as he proved with his happy-tortured solo Bone - still has that special touch that gives James their hooky, just-below-the-radar style. It’s something to do with the way his vocals are simultaneously expressive, yet cuttingly cold, that makes James sound unlike anyone else – even though their songs reference rock influences across the board.
Hey Ma is a canny mix of rock, and pop with a psychedelic edge that may or may not be a bit dated... and many tracks certainly capture the sounds past, or borrowed. Is that Lou Reed having a light moment about aging on "Waterfall"? And then "Oh My Heart" sounds like Morrissey accompanied by Arno and New Porn. Must be something in the imported mineral water.

Whatever! For many so-called fans, liking James back in the '90s wasn’t much more than a fashion statement. For real fans, it’s still much more. And they’re in luck. Because Hey Ma is without doubt one of the best albums James ever made.

- Jean Barker

In the late 90s sometime, any indie-rock fan may have found themselves absentmindedly singing "She only comes when she’s on top", to a chorus of odd glances from anyone who overheard them.

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