James are back, adding to their long and enduring collection with their 14th album, Girl At The End Of The World. They worked with producers Max Dingel, previously known for working with the likes of The Killers and Muse, and Brian Eno. James have produced an electronic and euphoric album bringing fans back to the dance floor, grooving to Tim Booth’s unique vocals and emotive lyrics.
Isolating themselves in the Scottish Highlands once again, the band set down to writing in the remote “very very very far North”; forced together with no distractions other than writing.
Girl at the End of the World follows on from the 2014 album, La Petite Mort, with new and contemporary sounds propelling the band to number two in the charts (behind Adele, of course). Consequently proving that James are still a favourite of the Manchester scene.
The album kicks off with a heavy bass riff by Jim Glennie lasting two and a half minutes. This song Bitch is a combination of electronic and rock with Tim Booth providing aggressive vocals.
The album’s first single, To My Surprise, which was released along with a controversial animated video, moves into the political arena. The song becomes almost like a pop song with its keyboard beats and a chorus you can imagine a crowd shouting along to.
Nothing But Love is a simple love song, a rarity for James, combined with Tim’s elated love and ecstasy driven vocals. It’s the type of song an audience would slowly and rhythmically sway to.
Next up is Attention, a fast jam which begins with mellow vocals and piano backing sounding like a cheesy emotional pop song. But don’t be fooled, quickly the song kicks off into an electronic dance beat and builds up to become a club epic. You can imagine Tim’s trademark crazy dancing kicking off at this point, reliving his younger days in Manchester’s acid house club scene.
The album has many songs which are powerful electronic rock with choruses that need to be passionately sung along to, Surfer’s Song, Catapult and Move Down South include these powerful calling vocals. They are continued with the song Waking which also has a Latin feel to it with the incorporation of Andy Diagram’s trumpet musical interludes, perhaps a sound which could have been included more in the album.
Something different appears in the album’s shortest track, Alvin which Tim sings in French simply because “he wanted to”. Speaking to Saul Davies in a previous interview he describes the vocals as “funny because his French accent is dreadful.” The song includes shuffling and bouncing rhythms which remind us of the band in the Madchester era.
The album finishes with the title track, Girl at the End of the World bringing the album to an emotional end with lyrics, “Remind me to breathe at the end of the world / Appreciate scenes and the love I’ve received / To love who I’ve been at the end of the world / The departing”. It’s a powerful song to end with and one which will become the hit of the album.
Carrying on from La Petite Mort, Girl at the End of the World doesn’t have one particular theme or sound which runs through the whole album. The electronic and rock sounds are dominant but the album also includes interludes of slower and mellower tunes which at times sound like emotional love songs.
The supremacy of the electronic sound in the album shows James are moving on from their musical past, becoming ‘poppier’ and following the sound of top selling indie bands. For some, this may suck the soul out of their songs, but for loyal, timeless fans I’m sure they will move with the band as they follow the latest trends.
Every James’ album includes a handful of songs which bond with the fans, who turn them into anthems shouting back the lyrics as Tim hands them the microphone. Although this may not entirely be the case with Girl At The End Of The World nevertheless it is destined to be another firm fans’ favourite.