James - Wah Wah
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James
Wah Wah

Usually when bigger-name groups try to pull off a real change of pace, it ends up sounding like a real mess, but James pull it off with very few hinges on their new album Wah Wah. In the summer of 93', while recording their Laid album, James also worked on bits of music and raw material that make up this album. Working with electronic musical legend Brian Eno, they gathered up all of their improvisions and eventually formed the 23 songs and the album Wah Wah out of the mix. Don't be fooled, though. Amid the backwash of soundscapes, it's still James, and no matter how much sounds there are, Tim Booths vocals are still present, whether it's as a nearly unrecognizable cut-up wash of sound, or straight-up on fairly normal-sounding (for the group) tracks.

One of the most memorable songs on the CD is the 21st track entitled "Tomorrow." Although it has a rather attacking drum line, the interwinding guitar strum and vocals tie it together into a very interesting package. Another very good song is the uncharacteristic 6th track called "Burn the Cat." It is a very slow, minimalistic song, with only minute guitar chords, drum beats and various bits of vocals by Booth drifting in and out throughout the song. The 4th song, "Frequency Dip," reminds one a lot of another recent piece of Eno co-production--U2's Zooropa. It moves along with a throbbing bass loop and is thick on the drums. The vocals jump around in the song so much, it is as if someone is going crazy with the crossfader.

Don't let the 12th songs' title throw you for a loop. Even though its title is "Say Say Something," it doesn't even vaguely resemble the song with almost the same title from their Laid. For a song without vocals, it sure conveys a lot of feeling. A lonely guitar drones through the song while various other sounds fade in and out and wash over the whole mess.

Overall, the album displays as much variety as could possibly be expected from James. The influences of Brian Eno are also very much detectable, as a lot of the songs have the sort of ambience that he was an early influence and pioneer of. It is one of those rare albums that is wonderful just to sit back and listen to. Most of the 23 songs are mixed together and the CD flows beautifully through its almost 70 minutes of music. Even non-fans of James will probably find themselves surprised by the product.

rating: 7.2510
Aaron Coleman 2003-06-19 00:00:00