Now well into theirfourth decade as one of Britain’s most inspired and influential bands, Jamesare set for another landmark year. With their fourteenth studio album, Girl AtThe End Of The World, due out in March, they are poised to remind us all thatthey remain a band who make music of rare invention and vitality.
Having retreated tothe wilds of the Scottish highlands two years ago to write their previousalbum, La Petite Mort, they returned to the same source of inspiration thistime around. There, in the dining room of a remote 18th Century coaching inn inthe middle of winter, they set about recapturing the free wheeling spirit thattraditionally lies at the heart of their best work.
'We built arehearsal room in the stone-walled building and bunkered ourselves down forthree weeks,’ explains singer Tim Booth. 'It was our man-cave, with mattressesgaffer-taped to the windows for soundproofing and barely a mobile phone barbetween the five of us who were there. We cut ourselves off from our familiesand the rest of the world, and improvised the songs that would become thealbum. Some of the jams went on for ten minutes, others lasted for over anhour. We recorded everything, then we started editing those sessions down tomore manageable segments and eventually into fully formed songs. If a lot ofthe tracks sound quite fast, you can blame that on the raw Scottish weather. Wewere working with a drum machine and were conscious of setting a quick tempo toinspire dance grooves and keep us on the move as the temperature outside wasfive below zero.’
The glorious upshotof those wintry sessions can be heard on an album that reiterates James’spenchant for writing songs of verve and unpredictability while maintaining anenduring emotional bond with their audience. The album moves beyond a classicJames collection into textures and grooves that are fresh and contemporary.Stuffed with great songs, it contains all the attributes that have helped theband to sell 13 million albums since their 1982 emergence from a fertileManchester music scene that also produced, in those monumental post-punk years,groups of the calibre of Joy Division, New Order, The Smiths and The Fall.
Girl At The End OfThe World builds on the foundations laid so successfully in 2014 by La PetiteMort. Like its predecessor, the new record was produced by Max Dingel, theGerman whizz who engineered The Killers’ Sam’s Town and produced White Lies’chart-topping debut To Lose My Life. But whereas La Petite Mort was in partinspired by the passing, at 90 years of age, of Tim Booth’s mother plus one ofhis closest friends and was described by the singer as being '80 per-centdeath, 20 per-cent sex’, the ratio is somewhat different this time around. Onboth these albums, the band took a fresh approach to writing, with keyboardistMark Hunter and guitarist and violinist Saul Davies co-writing and shaping thefinal songs from those highland jams, but Mark’s keyboards, in particular, havenever been so prominent on a James album, lending atmospheric texture andpanoramic power to songs that sound tailor-made for the live stage.