So after R.E.M. my favorite band in the world is easily James, the Manchester-based band best known for the song "Laid."
Far from writing songs about mere obsession, the band wrote engaging and thought-provoking pieces on suicide, God, hope, fear and love. And each lyric was matched to a complicated musical arrangement (like "God Only Knows").
"...'cause when I hold her in my arms, I feel like Fred Astaire..."
"You may say I am cynical, but I say man is flawed/He has a vague memory of before some fall..."
"You're as tight as a hunter's trap/Hidden well, what are you concealing?/Poker face, carved in stone/Amongst friends, but all alone/Why do you hide?"
"It's a crime in my child's eyes/To find out life is in disguise..."
Here's an example of a typical Tim Booth-led anthem, "Ring the Bells."
And this song evokes all of my collegiate road trips to Atlanta...I'd always play this on my way up I-75 through downtown Atlanta on my way to visit Britt.
Possibly more impressive is how rich and vivid the band always manages to sound live. They haven't toured the U.S. since (I think) 1994, when they played Lollapalooza, but I'm always hopeful they'll have a change of heart. ;)
The band took a several year hiatus, but returns next week with a new album, "Hey Ma." You can check it out here.
Here's the band playing in Athens in 2007 - reunited for just a brief period of time, and just on the cusp of writing new songs for "Hey Ma." I have to admit, "Hey Ma" and R.E.M.'s "Accelerate" are two albums I'm looking forward to more than I've anticipated any releases in a long, long time.
"Accelerate" is out tomorrow, and "Hey Ma" will be released in the UK on April 7th - but it's available for presale on Amazon!