JAMES - 'Yummy'

Published on 15 April 2024 at 08:58

By Paul Laird

Author of "The Birth And Impact Of Britpop: Mis-Shapes, Scenesters And Insatiable Ones"


Dear God, please help me. 

In 2018 I spewed some words onto a page. 

Words that tried to capture the reason why James mattered so much to a fool such as I. A fool? 

Only a fool could think that words could explain the impact of a band like this. But I tried. 


Not a review. 

Not an article. 

An attempt to explain who I was, who I became, and the role of James in that journey. A love letter? 

A confession? 

A cry for help? 


Somehow or other it ended up in front of Tim Booth

He read it. 

Then something remarkable happened. 

He reached out and in the conversation that followed he told me that I was a “real writer”. I find praise difficult. 

I don’t believe it. 



But here was a man who had written words that had, without exaggeration, changed my life… written words that seemed to give form to the thoughts I was too afraid to admit to…written  words that had healed me…a stranger who knew me better than I knew myself…saying  something kind. 

To the grave. 





We still haven’t ever met, God knows if we ever will, but I know something of him, and he knows  more of me. 

Is this love?


And now here we are 24 years after I first heard them, and forty two years since anybody first heard them, with album number eighteen. 

When I was eighteen I was a virgin in more ways than one. 

An outwardly confident, but inwardly terrified, scrabbling, scrambling, mess of a boy. I knew nothing. 


James at number eighteen know more than they ever have, and they have developed the ability to  share that knowledge with the world in brilliant, and brilliantly new, ways


At the heart of the James story lie recurring, and constant, themes… 











The story of your life? 

My first real love was soundtracked by “Seven”. 


Watching Tim Booth on television in a show called “Faith and Music” (?) was a pivotal moment in  my own personal faith journey - raised as a Mormon I listened to Booth describing his thoughts  on faith, belief, and spirituality, and for the first time, started asking myself questions about what I  believed, and perhaps more importantly what I didn’t.  


I would hear lines in songs that mention God, or that appeared to have spiritual connotations,  and I would feel comforted that my celibacy, my abstinence, my willingness to be open to the  wonderful, wasn’t just a “me” thing. 


Credit: Paul Dixon


When I lost three people I loved inside ten days two years ago it was “Moving On”, the song and  the video, that provided comfort that organised religion, self-help books, even the words of  friends and family, couldn’t. 


Go figure. 

Pick a human experience. 

Choose a glorious high. 

Select a devastating low. 


James will have something to say that will apply the soothing balm of Gilead.


These things were true when “Stutter” arrived in 1986 and they are true today. 


Yummy” has something to say about big issues: conspiracy theories (“belief is more important  than proof”), AI, mental health, the environment, mortality, and love. No matter how big, no matter  how difficult, no matter how challenging, they are a band who can make it all feel intimate, who  offer a path to connecting with others, who can offer judgement without ever sounding  judgemental…well, maybe a little bit when it’s deserved. 


What is as apparent as ever is that James, despite such a long history, has precious little interest  in repeating anything from that history - there is no formula here, no variation on the “usual”, no  playing to the crowd. What would be the point?  


If you want the same old song wrapped up in a different sleeve, I can point you to dozens of  “heritage” and “nostalgia” acts - you’ll have a whale of a time I’m sure. But it is the musical  equivalent of a meal from a fast food restaurant; an instant hit delivered by the familiar, but an  aching hunger for something more sub-sub-substantial an hour later. 


“Yummy” is not fast food. 

“Yummy” is food for the soul. 


I can’t help but see Jiro as he plates one of his immaculate dishes onto a plate in his Tokyo eatery  - standing back, watching the diner, waiting to observe the moment that they realise that what  they have just experienced is something greater than food, they have been given art on a plate.  So it is with James - as I listen I can feel one of the nine standing looking at me, waiting for the  moment that I realise what I have been given is something more than I deserve. 





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