The Band Of Holy Joy
A last-minute stand-in for Then Jericho at a Fresher’s Ball
James headlined the festival, with Cud / Man From Delmonte / Bradford / Farm / Hollowmen / And All Because The Lady Loves / Zoot & The Roots / Bridewell Taxis / New Fast Automatic Dafodils / Pale Saints / Treebound Story / Frank Sidebottom
Thankfully James are incredible, pointing the way for modern, tuned-in pop. Rock music of the highest order – and make no mistake, this is rock music of the highest – order can capture the moods and the aspirations of its generation, and James do all of that tonight. As they end “Sit Down” (the entire audience doing precisely the opposite and dancing wildly) to absolutely deafening roars, it’s all I can do to stop the tears rolling down my face.
So why aren’t James chartbusters both sides of the Atlantic? The nascent uplifting strains of the new songs are certainly well-crafted enough. And they’re no longer obtuse or obscure, rustic or rural. Maybe due to to their legendary business wrangles stifling the creativity of a band renowned for their non-conformity. More likely it’s a reflection of the times – clueless braindead snoreaminute clogging up the charts with their muzak while true innovators are left to rust and waste away.
Tonight, the Marquee, not the most suitable of venue at times, strains at the seams with business types, Smiths fan-club rejects and jubilant youngsters. They don’t know what to make of our heroes but they gradually warm to the swing of things. Tonight is a big chance to showcase material for an up-coming LP. And what an unqualified success it is.
Gone are many of the traits that used to confer distinctiveness – shallow melodies, determined improvisation, awe-struck gazing through opaque telescreens. Instead, the magic of rhythm weaves its way into the battered subconscious. After their well-documented disdain for anything danceable it is strange and refreshing to see them embrace dancefloor textures.
I don’t have to waffle and wank on to justify James renewed vigour – it’s right there, before your very eyes, never cloying or clinging. ‘Stutter’, ‘Johnny Yen’ and other classics are pulled out of the hat, almost dismissively. Booth is in fine fettle; never straining to reach the right notes nor resorting to condescension or crowd-pleasing activities.
Tonight was an occasion for some political bloodletting. Nothing as vanquished nor outlandish as putting names behind causes or supporting revolutionary terrorist groups, but an intercession between means and ends under Thatcher’s ever-straining leash. “Break down the government walls” was a pleasantly pleasing refrain. It’s not as obvious as it seems – some must make statements in these increasingly restrictive times. The promised land is too far away to wait on your arse for. It’s time for agitation again and James will be our guides.