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Chart Chat Album Review : James – ‘La Petite Mort’ 02.06.14

Chart Chat Album Review : James – ‘La Petite Mort’ (02.06.14)

Despite the fact that James have nineteen hit singles to their name most people remember them for ‘Sit Down’ which made no.2 in 1991 before returning seven years later for another top ten run in a remixed format. However their loyal fans will know that there is so much more to them than that with twelve top twenty albums to their name. They haven’t released any new music since 2010 when their two mini albums ‘The Night Before’ and ‘The Morning After’ peaked at no.20 and no.19 respectively. Now they are back with 46 minutes of new material spread over ten tracks and we’re here to review the album on a track by track basis.

Walk Like You

This is where it all begins, and it starts with a seven minute epic. Tim Booth goes back to childhood days with lyrics such as “which parent told you that you’re slow / my absent Dad my Mum’s control / schooled me to be a worker drone”. Those who have remained fans of James material will know that they know how to combine often very personal lyrics with epic pop songs and despite its length this is another example of this. 

Curse Curse

This continues the up-tempo start to the album although it comes in at three minutes shorter than the opening track. “Pour me some more Tequila / Raise the flames to fever / some spirit draws me out / Praise the Lord and kiss me on the mouth” sings Tim. I like this track, and it is one that I revisited again and again after my initial play of the album. It sounds fresh while still retaining some of the trademark James sound. 

Moving On

This has been the lead single, and the video which accompanies it is a thing of beauty. The song came from the death of Tim Booth’s mother which saw him spend the last couple of days of her life with her, singing soothing songs and sharing memories. It makes the lyrics such as “Gone / Didn’t see it coming / Never said I love you / Hope you knew” even more poignant, and the closing refrains of “I’m on my way” and “Leave a light on” offer an acknowledgment of death but also the hope that there is something more out there. This is every bit as memorable as their chart hits and will doubtless become a live favourite in the years to come.

Gone Baby Gone

Perhaps less immediate than some of the other tracks to be found on here, this is notable for its chanted chorus of “Gone baby gone / Baby gone / Baby gone”. The song deals with relationships, starting with the lines “She walked out the door / The china is smashed on the floor / a five year relationship / takes two to recover from”. Later in the lyrics Tim makes the profound declaration that “Love is a deal that we strike to conceal that we’re blind” and overall it’s a good song.

Frozen Britain

This is classic James and after just a couple of listens the chorus “Emily come to bed / Make a boy out of me” will firmly lodge itself in your brain. It comes backed with a vast musical landscape with Tim’s vocals sitting proudly in the mix. In a bygone era this would have been a big hit single but the arrival of downloads has meant that bands like James continue to sell albums but rarely appear in the charts where a shorter format dominates. This is perhaps my favourite song on the entire album. 


It was always going to be hard to follow on from such a great track, but ‘Interrogation’ finds its own way.  Slightly slower and in its own way quite dramatic the chorus focuses on “Let the records show / Liars lies and self-deceit”. It clocks in at a little under six minutes, so can lay claim to being one of the more epic songs on the album though not necessarily one of the more commercial. If this were on vinyl we would now be starting on side two, and that seems quite apt as the new few songs are quite different.

Bitter Virtue

A change of pace here as ‘Bitter Virtue’ arrives with a more stripped back musical arrangement than some of the previous tracks. The chorus goes “A bitter virtue / I’d rather live in sin / There’s pleasure in your suffering” and it stands out but for very different reasons to some of the other songs on the album. While some of the other tracks are more conventional upbeat pop songs this is more carefully crafted and demands your full attention when you listen to it. 

All In My Mind

This continues in a similar vein and showcases the more tender side to the band. The theme of death is revisited with lyrics such as “Bring out your dead / Laid out in line / A brief denial / Portends to more”. Lyrically it reminds me a little of ‘Hey Ma’, the title track of their 2008 top ten album which ended with the lines “Hey Ma / The boys in body bags / Coming home in pieces” and dealt with the US lead “War On Terror” following the 9/11 attacks. 

Quicken The Dead

Kicking off with a piano led intro, this is the shortest track on offer here at just two minutes thirty eight seconds. Lyrically Tim finds himself singing “Don’t ya know / We’re already dead” on the song which has a slightly more up-tempo feel to it than ‘Bitter Virtue’ and ‘All In My Mind’ but is still not in the sing along vein of ‘Frozen Britain’. 

All I’m Saying

And so the album draws to its conclusion with five minutes of ‘All I’m Saying’. It’s a fitting end to an excellent album – too often you will find bands whose long players end on a whimper.  As the final lyrics say “I’m missing you and all the worlds you opened up to view / I love you / See you next time”. And with that the album closes, but I look forward to the next time and hope this time around it’s quite such a long wait. 

Fans know pretty much what they are getting with a James album as each release is always of a high standard. The lyrics are always worth paying attention to, and there is a balance to be struck from the gentler but more dramatic tracks and the up-tempo commercial sing-along more pop orientated tracks. We may no longer see them on the singles chart but fortunately their strong fanbase ensures that they are consistently reaching the top twenty of the album chart.

The band feel, quite rightly, that this is one of their strongest albums to date and they have been able to secure a session slot on the Chris Evans show and an appearance on the One Show so hopefully that will serve to promote it still further.  With a bit of a following wind this could even see them back inside the top ten and there would be few bands more deserving of that return.


Ian Anderson (@ChartChatUK)

1 June, 2014 - Posted by | ChartChat

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