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Album Review

Going from the folk skullduggery of Stutter to the lavish club steps of Gold Mother to the introspective beauty of Laid, James have never been predictable. The band's progression has delivered a seemingly inconsistent but impressive body of work, and Millionaires is no exception. Crisp, shiny, accessible pop songs such as "Crash" (sounding, oddly, like 1990s manic "Come Home," and the bittersweet, Laid-era B-side "The Lake"), "I Know What I'm Here For," and "Afro Lover," seem designed to go for Top 40 gold. For a band like James, this is unusual — they've always seemed like the freaks and geeks of the school of popular and "credible" music. While it's not necessarily a bad thing for these outcasts to try to fit in, for at least half of the album it's exactly that: The flat, overproduced "Surprise," and the aimless "Dumb Jam" ignore the hook-laden nature of the band's past heights. Fortunately, the album's first half positively shines while taking this same populist approach. "Hello" succeeds with its hushed, electronic cries; "We're Going to Miss You" sounds like one of Midnight Oil's lost classics, simultaneously bitter and triumphant. Best of all, "Just Like Fred Astaire" somehow encapsulates every delirious high one feels when first falling in love. Essentially, the album has two disparate halves: the former, an ecstatic stab of triumph and love, the latter, a mired, confused slab of dulling mediocrity. Indeed, Millionaires is as odd and unexpected as James' overall discography. With a little personal song programming, one can make it sound like the freaks and geeks knew what they were doing the entire time — they might be a bit lost at times, but they have the creative heart that the musical jocks, cheerleaders, and hooligans would never, ever, own themselves.


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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Millionaires, James
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