Music blog by Bret Helm (of the band Audra) and Sarah Quarrie (turn signal user, nice person)
Saturday, July 12, 2014
[Album Review] James - La Petite Mort
Looking backwards to move on.
With each new record, an artist will forever get measured up against their past work. You need to know if James still has it. If they can still match the energy and passion of ‘Sit Down,’ ‘Sound,’ ‘Sometimes’ or ‘Say Something.’ If they are still relevant 30+ years into this music business. Well, I’ve said it ten times – and I’ll say it again – James gets better and better with age. And if you didn’t know that with 2008′s outstanding Hey Ma LP, then perhaps this new one will convince you.
La Petite Mort – the band’s 12th studio album (depending on how you count them) is an emotional tidal wave, concerning the circle of life – and rebirth. LPM brings with it the classic 7-man line-up that was brilliantly captured on 1990′s Gold Mother and 1992′s Seven – as well as their two most recent releases: the aforementioned Hey Ma and 2010′s double mini-LP, The Morning After The Night Before.
Whenever I sit down with a new record from a band whose catalog I’m very familiar with, I immediately look for the songs that are gonna be up there in the ranks with their best, and those that will slay a live audience when this album is ten years in the past. Those songs are sequenced tracks 1, 2 and 3. ‘Walk Like You’ boldly kicks things off – a seven-plus minute builder – immediately showcasing the glorious falsetto of Tim Booth, the melodic violin-drones of Saul Davies and the band’s penchant for experimental musical migration (halfway through the song had me checking to see if it was still Track 1). ‘Curse Curse’ – a techno romp with a massive chorus – is my favourite of the bunch. Like the album’s title (The Little Death), this song is seasoned with sexual innuendo and is undoubtedly an anthem. Just wait… I can already hear crowds joining in: “Pour me more tequila!” If the lyrics concerning the death of loved ones, and (hopefully) meeting up with them again in the future, doesn’t pull on your heart strings in ‘Moving On,’ then perhaps the music video will. It’s a celebration of life – sad, but uplifting. It’s classic James – in 2014.
James has two secret weapons – the first being Andy Diagram. His trumpet lines take an already emotional melody and boost it up into the emotional stratosphere. He really shines on the luxuriously-textured ‘Interrogation.’ The other is Mark Hunter, whose presence is all over this record, especially on the second half – from the underlying organ on ‘Bitter Virtue’ to the piano-arpeggio waltz of ‘Quicken The Dead.’ Perhaps I’ll feel differently about it six months from now, but the album’s weak spot occurs with ‘Gone Baby Gone.’ Maybe it’s the refrain of the song’s title, but it stands out as La Petite Mort’s ‘Low Low Low.’ And in all seriousness – that is the album’s only weak point.
So yeah, James still have it. Very few artists can put out something of this caliber this far into their career – and James have been getting away with it for years.
Go on and get this album:
My James Album Ranking Video:
If you're a vinyl enthusiast, check out our feature on the Spin Clean Vinyl Record Cleaning Machine (click image below)