Monday, 21 June 2010

"Sometimes when I look deep in your eyes I can see your soul" by @diaryofaledger.

James - Laid
AT wrote last week on my site about movies that are underrated so I thought that this week I'd talk about my favourite underrated album.  'Laid' by James.

James had wanted to work with Brian Eno for years, failing on several occasions to secure his services as producer.  In 1993 they finally got their wish and what emerged is one of my most listened to albums.  'Laid' is just one of the most complete albums I own, lovingly crafted, beautifully produced and still, seventeen years later getting regular plays in this house.

Eno is writ large all over it, he's one of the few producers who's sound can be heard along with that of the bands he works with.  Although he worked with James again they never reached the heights they did with 'Laid' again.

The album opens with the lovely 'Out To Get You'.  It's just one of those songs that I carry with me all the time in my head.  That opening slide guitar and Tim Booth's whispering vocal and the words, the amazing words.  Rarely has a song conveyed longing like this, something about it just connects with me on every level.
'Insecure, what ya gonna do, feel so small they could step on you.  Called you up answer machine, when the human touch is what I need.'
Second track 'Sometimes' about a suicidal boy stood on a roof, aerial held above his head, waiting for lightning to strike, is just so vivid and descriptive, you can feel the rain.  Booth almost talking at times over the music, barely singing.  It's U2 esque I guess, but not in a bad way.  It's also here that Eno starts to appear, the coral style chorus, like a thousand voices in the background, very reminiscent of his earlier work with Talking Heads.

I could write about how every track makes me feel.  How everyone of them has me singing along, remembering something that the sounds take my head back to.  'Five-O' in particular, which uses the slide guitar effect to best effect and lyrically engages the listener with some deeply poignant lyrics is the most beautiful.  It's the stuff men want to say to women, but don't.  
'Will we grow together, will it be a lie.  If it last forever hope I'm the first to die.  Will you marry me, can we meet the cost?  Is the power of love worth the pain of loss.'
It's a dark album in places, about broken relationships and broken dreams.  But Eno gives it a dense quality with his production and the consistently brilliant musicianship throughout coupled with Booth's terrific vocals make it feel very alive even so long after release.  Later James albums feel dated, this doesn't because it's not tied to a time or movement.  The early stuff, whilst good fun, lacks the quality of Laid and the care and attention to detail that's been given to each track here.

The title track is the one everyone knows of course.  Almost as famous as 'Sit Down' 'Laid' is the song that could so easily feel out of place but the album needs it's one throw away fun moment.  The problem was that as a single it was such a bad advert for the thought provoking stuff that was contained within the rest of the album and the review scores reflected that.  I can remember reading Q magazine and seeing the three stars and not believing what I was reading.

Poor James never really recovered from their masterpiece getting widely panned.  More albums have followed and there have been good tracks, but nothing as fully rounded and textured as this, they just started trying too hard.

Second to last track 'Lullaby' always makes the hairs stand up on the back of my neck.  Booth never got close to singing like this again.  It's so understated, delivered like every word has the upmost importance.  When the piano kicks in about half way through the song just lifts to a new level, it segues into an organ and suddenly Booth delivers this killer moment.
'In this gloomy haunted place, all the feeling are of shame.  All the windows have been broken by the children.    So the wind scream up the stairs, slams the doors and rattles chairs.  I wish we weren't conceived in violence.' 
'Lullaby' should have been the last track, the only miss step being the actual finale 'Skindiving' which would have sat so much better on Wah-Wah, the companion album released later but recorded at the same time as 'Laid'.

Other than that over indulgence though 'Laid' is one of my all time favourite albums, it's just a shame that James have never been able to get near this quality again.

'This bed is on fire with passionate love, the neighbours complain about the noises above.'
Big thanks to AT for letting me write this within his version of Blogger, we are both now 'official' contributors to each others sites on a Monday.  We hope you enjoy the pieces and as we both have a huge wealth of stuff we can write about on our two favourite subjects hopefully this is something that can continue long into the future.

Cheers buddy.

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