With The Morning After and The Night Before, their eleventh
and twelfth albums respectively, James continues the comeback initiated in 2007
following a temporarily break-up that occurred six years prior. Bundled
together as a pair of mini albums, the two discs find the band breaking free of
the common comparisons they’ve been tagged with for years. Originally dismissed
as second-hand Smiths, and later enveloping an orb of Eno-inspired
experimentation, James garnered a devout following despite an inability to
define themselves for a broader audience.
Whether or not their latest
efforts succeed in that regard remains to be seen, but if nothing else, the
band is moving ahead with the times. On the second disc, The Night Before, they echo the arched intents and swelling grandeur that brought U2
and Coldplay to stadium-sized proportions. That’s all well and good, and on
songs like “It’s Hot,” “Hero” and “Porcupine” in particular, the drama and
tension find an effective release.
Still, by veering into such
well-trod territory, they fail to move out of the mix. Consequently, The Morning After proves the better of the two sides, thanks to the emotional commitment
registered by singer Tim Booth, particularly when he allows his voice to
literally soar into its upper registers on “Dust Motes,” “Rabbit Hole” and
“Make For This City.” It’s lovely stuff… sumptuous, sprawling and utterly
haunting. So despite the disparity of finding The Morning After more satisfying than The Night Before, this is
a grand reawakening regardless.
“Dust Motes,” “Rabbit Hole” LEE ZIMMERMAN