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Pleased To Meet You - James

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3 Reviews

Genre: Rock - Pop Rock / Artist: James / Audio CD released 2001-07-02 at Mercury Records Ltd (London)

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    Your dooyooMiles Miles

    3 Reviews
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      10.09.2001 17:07
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      Isn't it strange how opinions differ? Reading through other opinions and reviews of this album you'd think this to be the final nail in James' coffin! Not so. As an avid James fan of the past, ooo, 50 years that they've been together (they influenced The Beatles you know!) I was expecting the worst of this album to be honest. Being one of the few people who actually despised Millionaires (really good songs bogged down in slick over-layered production) I was expecting more of the same. But from the very beginning we have a completely new sound - something James have had the knack of doing from Day 1. While not always doing the predictable (following Laid with the experimental Wah Wah for example), herein lies the beauty of this band. While bands like Oasis continue to peddle stadium rock album after cocaine-addled album, James are not a band afraid to try something that little bit different. This album is all that and more. The floating synthesisers at the beginning of opening track Space give way to a chorus that explodes into life. The track continues with fantastic melodies and reaches a crescendo that crashes around to the end of the song. A good start. Falling Down features a wonderful falsetto from lead singer Tim Booth, which then leads into another killer chorus, for a long time a major feature of James' work. English Beefcake (pretentious title but never mind), opens with a vaguely threatening drumbeat and a moody violin intro. The vocal is virtually sighed out by Booth, lamenting about the singer's vulnerabilities. The song then appears to end but then another falsetto by Booth cuts in and the song explodes, making the hair on the back of your neck stand on end. Breathtaking. Junkie is a sleazy dirty track that was first aired live over 18 months ago. A possible candidate for a single if a little over-long. The title track then follows wi
      th a lulling quiet guitar with Booth's almost whispered lyric. Although not the strongest track on the album, it is still passable. The Shining is an open-hearted song with lyrics talking about the beauty of being in love and all the trials and tribulations that it can bring. A heart-wrenching song that tugs at the heart-strings. Senorita has single written all over it. Clever self-deprecating lyrics - don't treat me like a god/treat me like a dog - add humour to the song. Incidentally, the greatest song ever to feature the word 'hullabaloo'. Trust me! Gaudi is one of the weaker songs on the album, as Booth shouts his lyrics, with voice sometimes straining, while the music is sub-Pet Shop Boys. Skip this one. What Is It Good For follows, and is a lament right up there with the best of them. From atmospheric synth, with a brushed drum, Booth curses himself for letting himself go through what we've all been through by making a fool of himself in love. The show of pride in trying not to let it show coupled with the unrealistic ideas of possible rekindlement. One of the stand out tracks on the album. Following hot on its heels is Give It Away - a song that sounds like its been transported back from when James did loads of folky songs that sound like the songs your teacher used to make you sing in primary school. Charming, but little to it really. Fine kind of drifts along and is perfect for those warm Sunday afternoons in Summer when you've got nothing to do but to go out for a drive. Lyrics are a bit empty, but there again, that's what the whole song seems to be implying anyway. Next up is the best song on the album. A cruelly overlooked anthem, Getting Away With It (All Messed Up) is quite possibly one of the best James songs since Laid. From the jangling guitars at the beginning, Booth's vocal breaks in and sounds extremely threatening. Then the drums kick in
      and all hell lets loose. A blinding chorus with catchy lyrics coupled with stunning musicianship. If you wondered why James were still going after so long, listen to this song. Fabulous. In typical James fashion, the album isn't finished on a high, but on a wonderfully atmospheric tune that borrows a little from underground experimentalists Mogwai and twists it slightly. The perfect blend of bleakness and beauty conjure up all kinds of images. Listen to this song in the dark just before you go to sleep after a hard day at work and everything will fade away. So, overall a great album with one or two duds. In my opinion, the perfect antidote to the slick professional production of its predeccesor Millionaires. The emphasis once more is back on the songs themselves rather than the production. A return to form that should see them find a new record company sooner rather than later following the end of their contract and subsequent amicable split from record company Mercury. Buy it now.

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        15.07.2001 04:58
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        “It could have been a brilliant career.” But that would have been just a little bit too easy. Despite a run of hits in the early 90s and releasing two of the finest albums of that decade, ‘Seven’ and ‘Laid’ by 1998 James were all washed up with no where to go. A greatest hits album was released, a typical label reaction to an act going nowhere fast when something amazing happened. It sold. Not just a bit but millions of copies, all of a sudden people seemed to awaken from a coma and remember they liked James. They suddenly found themselves promoted from struggling also rans to stadium fillers. Come late 1999 and James found themselves in the unprecedented position of heading up Mercury’s rosta. A heavy budget was thrown their way, Brian Eno was brought back in to co-produce and in return James produced ‘Millionaires’, a fantastic slice of adult pop which was arguably their finest album to date. And what happened? Yes you guessed it, the album flopped spectacularly, plunging James right back to square one. So here they are again, one step away from death row and what do they do? Release their most self indulgent and sloppy album since 1994’s dreadful ‘Wah-Wah’. Now that sounds like a good idea doesn’t it? Oh dear. True the warning signs were already present. For every ying there must be a yang. For every tight pop album Brian Eno records with James (eg ‘Laid’) there must be a noodly, experimental follow up (eg ‘Wah Wah’). Eno’s presence here singularly fails to ignite the best in James, the knowing pop sensibility, and exquisite sense of melody and a knack for creating dramatic music and instead brings their worst crimes to the forefront. That is Tim Booth’s absurdly pretentious lyrics and the band’s love pointless meandering experiments masquerading as songs. Shockingly there is barely a potential single
        present here, not a phrase I would expect to have to write in regard to band who have proved so many times to be masters of the format. All is not lost however, this isn’t quite an album of no redeeming features whatsoever. Repeated spins of CD do eventually result in a tolerable album, albeit one where every tangible effort seems to have put into burying some potentially excellent material under a sea of overly clever production and bizarre vocal performances. Crack the uninspiring surface and the odd jewel does eventually gleam, but even so there is some unforgivable dross contained within. Opening track, ‘Space’ starts off with an unnerving period of silence before some quietly shimmering synthesisers encircle the listener. As a spooky beginning this is could be potentially atmospheric, indeed the track almost manages the trick until Booth’s vocals enter, comically employing a vocorder and sounding nothing if not faintly ridiculous. Booth’s voice floats about amusingly, making no discernible attempt to find any thing resembling a melody. Things take a further turn for the bizarre as Booth is joined what sounds like a badly out of tune Welsh Men’s Voice choir who mouthe the terribly profound platitude “You’d better get over yourself / You’ve gotta get out of the frame / Gotta learn to see yourself a total stranger.” Hmm really? The initial attempt at a melody lost things do actually start to make something of a turn around at this point. Booth having thrown the vocorder out of the window starts to essay a quite insidious little hook on the verse which gradually rises into a suitably epic chorus. Finally the accompaniment breaks down into a heavy wall of melodic guitar and the track ends in a wail of feedback with Booth screaming “Calling....”. ‘Space’ is a messy way to open an album, no doubt about it but as you listen closer it all starts to make a k
        ind of twisted sense. More conventional at least in terms of song structure, is ‘Falling Down’. Opening with the drum beat from Blur’s ‘Song 2’ the song resembles U2 attempting to cover Madonna’s ‘Ray of Light’. An interesting image and one James have completely taken to heart, Eno blatantly borrowing William Orbit’s copyrighted production ticks, moog bubbles and flashes of oriental guitar. Meanwhile Booth decides to perform the verse in an amusing mock falsetto which sounds rather too similar to Mickey Mouse having ingested a heavy amount of helium, goodness knows what he was thinking. The crashingly epic chorus meanwhile seems to have wandered off completely the wrong record altogether as Booth drops the act and gives us a full blast of gravitas, complete with a massive sweeping hook. Despite the odd air of schizophrenia, ‘Falling Down’ is an entertaining and reasonably instant track which is something to be applauded on this at times extremely ‘difficult’ album. It drives with a knowing pop suss that I once thought James would have bled if they were cut and is undoubtedly one of the best efforts on here. Track three, ‘English Beefcake’, apart from the risible title is an odd one make no mistake. Opening with a brilliantly controlled rippling riff of guitar and heavily distorted strings it bristles with promise. Booth for a change decides to play the verse straight, alternating between a simple but tense vocal melody and semi spoken sections it all seems to work fine, which makes the chorus even more of a crushing disappointment. Employing those dreadful band harmony vocals, the chorus lacks a central hook and meanders around in an unimpressive circular fashion. Then surprisingly the song performs a dead stop, being reborn with a completely different melody and the repeated lyric “There’s nothing to say / I get in the way/ Unable to bre
        ak obsession.” Its a surreal twist which gathers pace rapidly and is quite memorable, particularly the crunchy guitar sound and the classic Booth wail taken straight from ‘Seven’s classic track ‘Sound’ but really doesn’t fit the main body of the song. James have often stated that they write through jamming sessions and that is what this sounds like, the potential for a killer song lurks but is unrealised through the multitude of ideas present. The title track also suffers with a similar malaise. Characterised by heavy atmospheric keyboards and a low melodic bass the song takes its time to develop. Booth adopts his best anguished persona and the melody of the verse shows promise but the chorus lacks, well pretty much anything intriguing at all. The track is best described as one long drawn out threat, but by the time the dénouement comes with a lightning flash of industrial guitars at 3mins 45 sec the listener has long since lost interest. This closing section is incredibly dramatic with a delicious hint of evil about the vocals in the forefront of the mix and is surely the seed of a far finer track, again sadly lost in the aimless noodling that preceded it. As such it is something of a relief when the strains of ‘The Shining’ start. Beginning with a simply gorgeous piano and guitar instrumental introduction, Booth plays to his strengths in the vocal, giving a fantastic controlled performance. The widescreen ambitions that dominate so much of this album’s focus are finally realised as the track rises to a wonderful windswept chorus. This is classic James, sadly by its very presence on this record the rest looks shoddy in comparison. Everything is judged right, from the clean production to the running time which manages grandeur in just under 4 and a half minutes. Sadly, ‘The Shining’ is followed by a sequence of completely uninspiring numbers. ‘SenoritaR
        17; is a tedious attempt at a pop song, nervy verse and big chorus all present and correct but rendered without a hint of a decent melody or even a dash of passion. ‘Gaudi’ is a pounding and thumping mess of dreadful lyrics (“God’s dead / This state is torture”) and half realised musical ideas. Someone seems to have told James that kicking up a loud racket can double for making interesting music if you run out of inspiration. Eno’s attempts at Orbit style production sound even more tired previously and one gets the feeling that if this is what James have been reduced to, now is the time to give up. ‘What Is It Good For?’ is sadly perhaps even worse, although the modern production ticks have been dropped the simple acoustic line and a tender Boone vocal can not compensate for the fact that this song contains no ideas whatsoever. There isn’t even an attempt at a chorus, James seem resigned to the fact that this track has no hooks at all and is destined to spend its four minute running time going precisely no where. Worse still is found earlier on the album with the hideous attempt at trip hop which is ‘Junkie’. The track makes pitiful attempts at name checking pop culture which make no sense in the context of the track (“Chocolate kisses Pokemon”) and features awful sounding out of tune guitars. This combined with a dreadful droning attempt at a tune and Booth sounding like he's about slit his wrists at any moment, probably because he’s been forced to listen to this song on repeat, this can only be described as a true nadir in James’ career. Thankfully the quality control begins to pick towards the end of the album. The gently swaying ‘Give It Away’ is pleasant and moving little song, even the band harmony vocals sound right for once. The song tellingly has no attempts at knowing cleverness or climactic changes in structure, it sounds alm
        ost folky in style. The chiming ‘Fine’ which follows is also an enjoyable little piece of dance orientated pop with a driving beat and lyrics so ridiculous they actually amuse in a good way, “I haven’t eaten for days / I’ve ordered in a Chinese takeaway.” The little string line which flickers in the chorus keeps the song flying along at a nice pace and the continued dropping of pretension following ‘Give It Away’ comes as a delicious relief. As ‘Fine’ fades out the albums flyer single and undoubted finest track starts up with a menacing little acoustic guitar line which carries hints of ‘Tommorow’ and a wonderful driving drum beat. ‘Getting Away With It’, nails what James generally do best, a hint of darkness in the music and a killer chorus with Booth’s vocals impassioned and the lyrics intelligent not pretentious. As the chorus repeats strings and bleak electrics enter the mix cranking up the tension and the swirling solo is quite simply delightful. Its still not quite classic single material, perhaps a little to dark for day time radio, but terrific stuff all the same. Its a shame then that the album closes this little recovery with the restrained ‘Alaskan Pipeway’. Best dismissed a pleasant sounding filler, the song is inoffensive but lacks any particulary memorable qualities or anything to encourage the listener to spin the CD for another listen. Its most interesting quality is the slightly surreal hint to the lyrics: “You mother me / I son you.” and the little barbed melodic twist which closes the song. So to the final verdict, this is a long and messy album, of that there can be no doubt. At times there are hints of past greatness and the odd song present can stand up amongst the band’s illustrious back catalogue. However, too much of this album is caught up in thrall of the format of the jam and the bel
        ief that it is cleverer then it really is. It could have been a wonderful album. Sadly its not.

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          11.07.2001 21:36
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          Now I've got to come clean here and admit I've never been a big fan of James. Sure I was aware of them, from the abomination that was "Sit Down" ( I must admit, to my eternal shame, I once did exactly as the song requested, on the dance floor of a student bar. In my defence I would say that everybody else was doing it, I'd had a few beers, it was a LONG time ago, did I mention I'd had a few beers?) thru various nondescript bland pop/rock compositions, the only note worthy song during this time being "Born of Frustration". So why did I buy this album? Two reasons really. Firstly their last album, "Millionaires". I absolutely loved it. Lots of exuberant pop songs and beautifully affecting ballads, which played a little like a trawl thru the best musical genres of the 1980s. And their performance of tracks from the new album on "Later: With Jools Holland". Did you see it?. Superb set and what about Tim Booth? The man is a genuine grade A pop nutter. The image of him dancing will live with me for a long time. So what is their new album like? Well I have to admit to being a bit disappointed by it. There is no denying that James are consummate pop pros and Tim Booth can write good songs however, to my mind, this is not a patch on "Millionaires". Each song sounds pleasant enough but its lacks a certain spark, it has no "joie de vivre", it is (the horror) bland and innoffensive. Which is all the more surprising as it is for the most part co-produced by Brian Eno, the guy who made U2 into the global phenomenom they are today. Here, there is very little sign of his undoubted genuis. Here are the tracks*: Space - I'd call this a typical mid-90s James track. Mid-paced pop/rock, lushly produced with lots of guitars, strings, torturted vocals and an attempt at a big chorus. Very professionally done but instantly forgettable. Falling Down - Th
          is is much better. Bouncy pop, with a bit of an asian flavour about it, which is catchy whilst its on but again you will be unlikely to finds yourself singing it in the shower. English Beefcake - At nearly 6 minutes this is the "Pearl Harbor" track on the album, i.e. there's nothing wrong with it, it just out stays its welcome by a long way. There is a line in it "Nothing to say much less to do". I couldn't have put it better myself. Junkie - I like this one. It is slow, almost trippy, with an unusual vocal treatment from Tim, which gives it the feel of Portishead. And I think it's the first time I've heard Pokemon mentioned in the lyric of a pop song. Pleased to Meet You - (hope you know my name, woo woo). Unfortuantely not. Being the title track, I'd have expected better, however this is very weak. A slow almost non-song for three minutes with a hushed vocal, then big clashing guitars for a further minute and a half. And, then the best bit, it ends. The Shining - Its about this guy who whilst looking after a snow-bound hotel goes mad and trys to kil......Nah. This actually quite a good track. I could imagine it being used in a sloppy scene on "Dawson's Creek" which is not meant to be an insult! Sounds a bit like being drunk on a sunny afternoon, yeh I do like this one. Senorita - Another one that sounds ok whilst it's on and is forgotten as soon as it is finished (perhaps I'm suffering from musical dementia?... no it's definitely the song's fault). Give it Away - Altho another mid-paced pop song, this one has a different feel as it uses a fiddle high in the mix but it is still unmemorable. Fine - Not worthy of comment, the musical equivalent of ryveta. Getting Away With It (All Messed Up) - Pure James but the stand-out track on the CD. Builds from a quiet start to a big sing-a-long c
          ourse. If there is a risk of any song being hummed after play then this is the one. And alhto I have no clue its about, it has my favourite lyric: "Daniel drinks his weight Drinks Like Richard Burton Dance Like John Travolta" It works when you hear the song, honest!! Alaskan Pipeline - A slow, thoughtful song to finish which like the place itself is pretty but cold. And there you have it. Not a bad album by any means of measure, just unmemorable. Better buy "Millionaires" instead. *Please note that I am reviewing the "international" version of the CD as bought from cd-wow.com so does not include the British "bonus" tracks

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        • Product Details

          Disc #1 Tracklisting
          1 Space
          2 Falling Down
          3 English Beefcake
          4 Junkie
          5 Pleased To Meet You
          6 The Shining
          7 Senorita
          8 Gaudi
          9 What Is It Good For
          10 Give It Away
          11 Fine
          12 Getting Away With It (All Messed Up)
          13 Alaskan Pipeline