James are the Rodney Dangerfields of Brit-pop, er, make that British pop. They get no respect in America, even though they’ve been around longer than that catchy little nickname for popular music hailing from England. In fact, when the band’s stunning debut, the Village Fire EP, was issued in 1985, they were hailed by Morrissey of the Smiths, who were still together at the time. Since then, the Smiths have broken up; along came Pulp, Blur, and Oasis. Now the Chemical Brothers and Prodigy are all the rave, and most Americans still don’t know James from any other group of Limeys. That’s too bad, because for more than a decade James has been one of the most consistent British bands around, no matter what the fashion of the day.
Although the band’s recordings for Sire Records, Stutter and Strip-Mine, failed to live up to the promise of such early tracks as “Hymn From A Village,” James regained its footing on its 1990 effort, Gold Mother, which featured a new, expanded line-up that was seven members strong. Although the album was a hit in the UK, a U.S. version, simply titled James, merely spawned the modern rock semi-hit “Sit Down.”
The band continued to move in the right direction with 1992’s Seven, which contained another minor modern rock hit, “Born Of Frustration.” However, it wasn’t until its ranks were slimmed to six members and that it teamed with producer Brian Eno that James fully hit its stride. The collaboration with Eno resulted in two albums, 1993’s acoustic-leaning Laid and 1994’s improvisational Wah Wah. After singer Tim Booth’s collaboration with Twin Peaks composer Angelo Badalamenti, “Booth And The Bad Angel,” James resurfaced with Whiplash, another worthy effort.