James first came to my attention with their rather wonderful JimOne EP. I then went on to eagerly follow their releases up to Goldmother (which in my opinion peaked with Strip Mine). I saw them play a celebratory show at the Blackpool Empress Ballroom the year after the Roses played there and I saw them steal the show at Glastonbury after being a last minute replacement for Morrissey, even covering 'We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful' better than the great man himself. Shortly after that their music took a downwards trajectory and they chose a path more in line with the stadium rock of Simple Minds than the otherworldly, eccentric James I knew and loved. They split in 2001 and I heard they got back together a few years ago, but I hadn't heard anything up to this point, so it was with great interest I approached this album.
The Morning After is a mini album and serves as a Part 2 for another previous mini album The Night before which was released earlier on in the year. Word has it that this album was an opportunity for James to use the slower songs they often leave off other albums. I wish someone had talked them out of this as on initial listens it does indeed appear they are scraping the bottom of the songwriting barrel.
Album opener Got The Shakes is a parody of Unchained Melody and is apparently about alcoholism. Given the title of the album it rather does feel like a hangover and from here on in things go rapidly downhill. The nearest James get to being the James of old are on Make For This City and Look Away. And these themselves reveal that the James of 2010 are a far cry from what they once were. Nothing here comes anywhere near matching the beauty of 'If Things Were Perfect' or the rousing pop of 'What For.'
The resulting tunes don't improve on further listens. Tim Booths vocals seem forced and strained throughout and it's a rather sad indication of where the band are now. Opening the booklet shows a photo of James looking rather middle-aged and this is representative what the album actually is - a middle of the road album made by middle-aged men. Tim Booth is now shorn of his curly locks making you wonder if this has had a Samson like effect on his songwriting skills.
Releasing 2 mini-albums when they could have quite easily put out a full length (both albums are 30 mins a piece) appears to be a cynical marketing ploy and the overall album is very disappointing. It would be foolish to expect a return to the glory days, but this being James you could least expect it contain a hint of a pop song that once made them great. As it is, there's very little here to return to. If I were Tim Booth I'd take a leaf out of other bands books who find themselves in a situation where they are creatively dried up - I'd tour Strip-Mine or Goldmother.