It’s now approaching nine months since the nonsense of the Sit Down remix and it is time for what would be the 25th single to be released by James.
Let’s give the band a bit of credit. They were wounded by the criticism offered by fans about the multi-formatting of recent 45s and that almost all of them had been padded out with remixes or live versions. and so it was made clear that the first post Best-Of single would come accompanied by high quality new songs unavailable elsewhere.
The single itself caught more than a few folk out:-
mp3 : James – I Know What I’m Here For
This was a different sounding James…well to an extent. It had a joyous sounding 45 with a catchy chorus but in a way that was unlike any of their other singles. I was caught out by it at the time and to all intent and purposes I should have fallen for its charms. But I couldn’t help but think that they were trying to take a leaf out of the book of U2 with a conscious and deliberate attempt to make something different just for the sake of it rather than head down any new and exciting musical direction. And sixteen years on, I remain strangely unmoved by the single. There’s evidence that I wasn’t alone as it stalled at #22 in the charts.
So what about these anticipated b-sides??
mp3 : James – All Good Boys
mp3 : James – Imagine Ourselves
mp3 : James – Downstairs
mp3 : James – Stolen Horse
All Good Boys is a slow song initially driven along by a strong vocal from Tim over an acoustic guitar before the chorus licks in where it sadly falls away into something a bit dull and leaden with the rest of the band joining in on backing vocals over a tune that could pass for a Robbie Williams b-side.
Imagine Ourselves is another slowie. This time it is initially driven along by a strong vocal from Tim over some electronic noodling. However, there is no upbeat shouty chorus to take the song to a different level so it sort of meanders along for the whole four and a half minutes but in a way that is quite lovely and moving. It’s a song that needs two or three listened to be fully appreciated but there’s no denying it is top quality for a b-side.
Downstairs is very much James in the 90s by numbers in that if you were fond of the singles you’d immediately fall for its charms. Regular readers will know that I found the James of the 90s a bit more miss than hit and so it is with this song. But I can see and appreciate why it is so well-regarded by fans
Stolen Horses is yet another ballad and again doesn’t do all that much for me but this is as much to do with the fact that James are no longer sounding anything like the band that I had fallen for almost 15 years previously than it being a crap song.
Listening to the songs some sixteen years later and I think I may have come up with the answer to as why I’m not a huge fan of them…….
These b-sides, and indeed the a-side could have been written today and no-one would be any the wiser. There’s lots of singers and bands out there who have great sounding voices and whose technical skills on their chosen instruments are there for all to hear and who have no trouble filling large venues and arenas to ever-increasing fanbases. These James songs from 1999 sound as if they would fit very comfortably into such sets and that’s what’s wrong with them. The music snob in me shies away from the mainstream for the most part and these highly proficient songs repel me in the same way.
But this journey of looking at James singles is almost at an end and so I’m not disembarking the vehicle until it reaches its final destination. I am however, bored with the repetitive scenery as I look out the window. I need that ‘wow’ factor………