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James - Yummy (Album Review)

Wednesday, 24 April 2024 Written by Graeme Marsh

Photo: Paul W Dixon Photography

More than 40 years into their career, Manchester darlings James are still going strong. Few would have thought that when they entered a seven year hiatus in 2001, a split described as necessary by vocalist Tim Booth in order to preserve one another’s wellbeing. Their sign off was ‘Pleased To Meet You’, a fitting peak in an indifferent album catalogue. Now, all these years later, ‘Yummy’ reaches those heights again.

In the past 10 years alone, James have released six albums. While the quality has been consistent, they were good rather than great, with the odd classic situated alongside decent peers. Here, the highlights from the core team of Booth, founder Jim Glennie, multi-instrumentalist Saul Davies and keyboardist Mark Hunter are more plentiful.

The single Our World offers an accurate portrayal of what to expect as Booth’s lyrics dive into how everyone should contribute to the welfare of the planet – it’s a vintage James tune, full of energy if a little tempered compared to their early melodic wilfulness.

The chord sequences are heartwarming and familiar, yet somehow each song carries a fresh coat of gloss. Opener Is This Love, for instance, is a less pacey riff on Tomorrow, which appeared on the experimental ‘Wah Wah’ and the more conventional ‘Whiplash’ in the mid-1990s. It glides elegantly — this is a band that knows how to play to its strengths, but are happy to do so at a rate more readily associated with growing old gracefully. 

In fact, ageing is a recurring theme. There are big numbers here, including the rousing Mobile God and Hey, which revisits their anthemic side, but Rogue’s chorus soars above its verses, where Booth sings “my body won’t behave” and that his “face is full of folds”. Two epics, meanwhile, are notable standouts. Davies has a substantial hand in both, with the magnificent Butterfly surpassed by Shadow of a Giant not least because of his impeccable talent with a violin. Alongside Booth’s wavering vocal, his playing reflects a sense of impermanence that comes with the passing of time. 

The addition of percussionists Debbie Knox-Hewson and Chloe Alper to the band’s ranks has reinvigorated their sound, too. James purists may approach any changes with trepidation, but Alper’s backing vocals work wonders. The real ‘wow’ moment to underline this aspect arrives during the show stopping Better With You, where Alper’s delicate performance produces a spine-tingling moment.

Despite some similarities with earlier releases, James are no parody of their former selves. Instead, they have evolved into a more mature version. With the addition of Alper’s voice, there is a sustained feeling of being offered something new. As a result, ‘Yummy’ is without doubt the best album James have released since they reformed.

James Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Wed May 29 2024 - BOURNEMOUTH O2 Academy Bournemouth
Mon June 03 2024 - ABERDEEN P&J Live
Wed June 05 2024 - NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE Utilita Arena
Fri June 07 2024 - GLASGOW OVO Hydro
Sat June 08 2024 - LEEDS first direct Arena
Tue June 11 2024 - CARDIFF Utilita Arena
Wed June 12 2024 - BIRMINGHAM Utilita Arena
Fri June 14 2024 - MANCHESTER Co-op Live
Sat June 15 2024 - LONDON O2 Arena
Sat July 06 2024 - BEDFORD Bedford Park
Sun July 07 2024 - LANCASHIRE Lytham Green
Thu July 25 2024 - LUDLOW Ludlow Castle
Fri July 26 2024 - SCARBOROUGH Scarborough Open Air Theatre
Fri August 23 2024 - KINGSTON UPON THAMES PRYZM Kingston

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