[sic] Magazine

James – The Morning After / The Night Before

It’s impossible to listen to ‘The Night Before’, without the companion, and second part ‘The Morning After’. The two work together as a whole, light/dark, yin/yang, Buzz/Woody. The first part – ‘The Night Before’ is, as much as there can be, a joyous, loud James : lush string arrangements, propelled rhythms, and reminiscent of the finest James work of all time – the giddy heights of ‘Seven’ and non-linear movements that move between restraint and abandon. Songs like ‘Porcupine’ and ‘Shine’ are glorious, dazzling, happy things – full of joy, of ambition, and of adventure that make the listener feel that nothing is impossible. It is rare that music does this, everything coated in optimism but also tinged with sadness, it’s practically musical Prozac – and, at the same time, its companion piece, the sequel ‘The Morning After’ – is the hangover.

My biggest criticism of ‘The Night Before’ is that, while a collection of grand songs, it fails to sit together as a cohesive record. It’s almost a mini Greatest Hits, where all the material happens to be new songs – vast, sweeping choruses, broken melodies, a seemingly random order that lacks any form of cohesion. Follow up ‘The Morning After’ is a more subdued affair, filled with quiet contemplation Within these two records lies a great James album (and some average b-sides). Better, I suppose for these two to exist in this form, than not at all. Experiencing one without the other is a false economy. However, a black mark must be raised against James, for placing five bonus tracks (each virtually the equal to anything on these releases), only on their website, iTunes, or as part of a unlockable exclusive multimedia bonus tracks you can only get with a copy of the CD inside your computer drive. That means that unless I buy each release twice, I’m missing at least two songs. Thanks. I thought the people who buy your records were worth more than that.



For more from Mark, please visit The Final Word