As Brian Eno's sometimes all too precious liner notes explain, when he and James worked together first in rehearsals and then in full recording sessions on Laid, a conscious decision was made to work on a variety of improvisations just to see what would happen. Wah Wah is the result, one of the more uncommercial albums any band of its stature and its accompanying major label has had a hand in releasing. Those expecting 60-minute maelstroms of free noise or recitations of obscenities or the like are in the wrong place, but definitely compared to the beautifully structured and precisely produced Laid, Wah Wah is much more a series of explorations in sound, sometimes quite fascinating ones. The general focus of Laid towards an evocative, restrained attractiveness and moody melancholy holds here as well, more immediate numbers with full lyrics from Booth sung in his fine voice mixed with more open-ended instrumental or wordless vocal jams. More than a few songs could have easily fit on Laid without a worry, such as the slow building "Pressure's On," easily a cousin to Laid's album-starter "Out to Get You," and the solid, techno-tinged trip "Honest Joe." Meanwhile, "Tomorrow," in re-recorded and even more warmly epic form, later became the excellent lead track on Whiplash. One tune, "Say Say Something," shares title and inspiration with the similarly named Laid song but takes a much different direction, with what sounds like Indian violin contributing to a slow-paced, serene wash of sound. Some songs are by default much more fragmentary than others, lyrics just dreamed up of the top of Booth's head, the rest of the band working around a rhythm loop or quietly rolling rhythm. Overall Wah Wah makes for a good listen both as a companion piece to Laid and on its own understated merits.
"My" favourite James album
I personally believe that "Wah Wah", is one of their best albums, and deserves to be in most peoples music collections. If you are going to download anything from it, then my reccomendations are... Pressure's on, Jam J, Bottom of the Well, Honest Joe, Tomorrow and Laughter. When James called it a day (as such), late in Dec 2001, Jim Glennie said that the band would continue in one way or another, which has not been the case. I think that if he had, then the Wah Wah sound and feel would of been a good direction to go in. I seem to remember one of the weekly mags saying that "It flows with coherence, despite its scrap book feel", and I think this pretty much sums it up. Enjoy.
At this price James fans would be crazy to miss it!
I guess Wah Wah is not the bands favourite off spring as it was not included with the bout of re issues a few years ago and it's taken it's precious time to get to itunes. But it's finally here and at a bargain price to boot. Before you download you should know that it is mostly an ambient album and there are only half a dozen songs among the 20 + tracks, but each one is a corker. You should also know that it was produceed by Brian Eno (the safest ambient hands you can put your ears in) at the same time as the band were recording the Laid album and that stand out track Tomorrow was later dusted off and released as a single. If you like Laid then this is a must, but if you prefer the later, more predicatable James albums this will probably leave you a little bit confused. If you are looking for stand out tracks to down load go for Tomorrow, Pressure's On, Jam J and Sayonara.
Born: 15 May 1948 in Woodbridge, Suffolk, England
Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s