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The Night Before

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Album Review

Ambition has never been a stranger to James, perhaps the one band to work the most frequently with Brian Eno to the least amount of attention. After returning to action with 2008’s Hey Ma, the Mancunian quintet decided to dabble a bit with the shifting methods of releasing music in the new millennium via the EP set The Morning After/The Night Before, a pair of complementary EPs released separately in the U.K. and then in tandem in the U.S. The title is indeed a bit of a giveaway, indicating the mood each half of the project conveys and mood is a large part of what this is all about, James creating teeming nocturnal soundscapes, alternating between the propulsive and seductive on The Night Before then slipping into a cool-down for The Morning After. By its very nature, The Night Before grabs upon its initial listen, being built upon urgent rhythms and loud guitars, letting Tim Booth scale to neo-operatic heights, but The Morning After succeeds in its own quiet way, maintaining a cool intimate vibe without seeming monochromatic. Each EP has a handful of standout songs — the melodic thrust of "Make for This City" on Morning, the escalating drama of "Porcupine" on Night — but what lingers is James’ controlled mastery of mood, how the band never pushes too hard yet never settles over the course of this quietly satisfying set.

Biography

Formed: 1982 in Manchester, England

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

As one of the first groups to be dubbed "the next Smiths," James became an institution on the British alternative music scene during the '80s and '90s with their pleasant folk-pop. Early in their career, James were blessed by praise from their idol Morrissey, which turned out to be both a blessing and a curse. The group was pegged as second-rate Smiths, yet continued to tour and record, eventually gaining a sizable following. In the late '80s, James, like many of their British peers, became involved...
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The Night Before, James
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