The version of this that came up on my random selector (I don't actually use dice; I use this random number generator) was my cassette version of this album, but I can't find that, so I had to listen to my vinyl copy.
I got the cassette first, I think, as a sign of fairly uncommitted interest in James. Jeremy and I had seen them play at WOMAD in 1985 and been intrigued, but we were having trouble standing up and couldn't stay for the whole set. I'd tried to see them again at the Lower Refectory (now 're-branded' as the Foundry, and with concomitantly corporate atmosphere) at Sheffield University in early 1987, but the gig was cancelled because of heavy snow.
Anyway, I slowly fell in love with the music on that cassette. There's something genuinely uncanny about James when they're on song, and Tim Booth's lyrics have a knack of tapping into my inner dialogues in a way that only Douglas Coupland matches. Examples on this album at the time included "I don't know how decisions get made / which of the turns to take" and "It's so hard to remain open / if you bend, you won't get broken". I also like the whole cod-reincarnation conceit of Summer Song. There's the self-disgust of Johnny Yen when the singer deplores young males making a big deal of being tortured artists, and his compulsion to do the same. In Really Hard the band are shamed by the fact that "Trying to impress is the nature of our work", as though this makes them into whores (a comparison they made more explicit in later songs).
The music and the visceral sounds take it much beyond that, though. I love Tim Booth's incoherent yelps, and I love the chants about holes. In his official biography of James, Stuart Maconie explains how Tim and Jim from the band were in the thrall of a cult-ish sect called Lifewave around the time of this album, which involved various extended mediation, breathing exercises, special diets and celibacy, and I wonder if that had something to do with the way there seems to be so much do-or-die energy invested in their best material.
|MusicBrainz entry for this album|