In commercial terms, 1991 was an unallayed triumph for James. The re-released Sit Down reached number two in April and the band’s long metamorphosis from eccentric semi-acoustic indie outsiders to major status, was confirmed when they headlined the Reading Festival in August. Yet, as the year progressed, the band’s critical stock fell as fast as their public popularity rose.
Sit Down weas shamelessly anthemic, with its singalong chorus and its rallying call to misfits everywhere. “Those who find themselves ridiculous / Sit down next to me” sang Tim Booth, as if hoping to gather a stadium-sized congregation of assorted inadequates. And, while that top spot at Reading carried undeniable kudos, most reviewers felt the band had struggled and failed to follow the more effective rabble-rousing from Carter USM that immediately preceded their performance.
In October, James set out on a 28-date UK tour, the biggest to date for a band whose popularity had long been built around live performances. Tickets for the shows were as scarce as reviews that didn’t mention Simple Minds. The success of the tour showed that most old fans stayed loyal; but the new material disappointed many who’d been charmed by the mixture of pop gloss and individual vision that characterised 1990’s Gold Mother LP. James appeared to have responded to their higher status by turning into a pomp-rock band; and these fears were confirmed by the ponderous excesses of Sound, the single released to a barrage of critical raspberries in November.
Once again, however, the record-buying public begged to differ, and Sound immediately soared into the Top 10. James’ year ended with the announcement of plans for a new album Seven to be released next Spring- and, it seemed, with the stadia and lighter-waving citizens of America beckoning.