Sixteen years after their Manchester formation, James might just be the closest thing we’ve got to an English REM. There’s certainly comparisons between the two bands careers : years of cool cult underground status singing witty little ditties before going through a butterfly-like metamorphosis into international stars; both bands with enigmatic and, occasionally, Messiah-like front men and a fan-base which stretches right across the board.
We often underestimate the size and popularity of Tim Booth and James. Their story is that of a band experiencing the very highs and darkest lows of maturing in public : dodgy record deals leaving them testing drugs in the local hospital to earn rehearsal money, to hitting the Number Two spot with “Sit Down” at the same time providing an anthem (and matching T-shirt) for a million students. But the extent of their success lies beyond one single.
Headline shows with over 30,000 people in attendance, touring the States with Neil Young, being banned from TV for blasphemy, yet attracting a horde of Franciscan monk fans who turned up at gigs claiming they were great. From thriving at the heart of Madchester to selling a million records at the end of the Nineties, recent times have seen James go from strength to strength. So much so, in fact, that recent single “Destiny Calling” (taken from their new singles compilation) is possibly their best yet. Ever the cynical but sharp ones, the single is an ironic stab at the music industry which has dealt them injustices which they battled through to survive. It’s an underdog’s anthem which highlights the band’s outsider element, a position they thrive upon.
With songs this good, James, after all these years, are at their peak, winning new fans and, by golly, playing packed out shows like these. Lovely tunes, too. Go see, go see.