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James La Petite Mort (Cooking Vinyl)

Death, due to the loss of family and friends, has been much on Tim Booth's mind in the years since James's last release, the back-to-back mini-albums that collectively made up The Morning After The Night Before - not that you'd realise this from the polished pop brio that assaults your ears from the outset here.

Opening track Walk Like You is a seven-minute sparkler that, even when it sails close to chart-bound piano pop, does so only to become Keane with a brain and a lifetime of experiences to draw upon. Like a less cynical Neil Tennant, Booth's voice on Curse Curse is as smooth as his shaven head, and even its Euro-rave synths avoid the cringe factor of Coldplay's Sky Full Of Stars, possibly because from student indie discos to the arena circuit they now call home, James have always dance particles in their DNA. Lyrical clouds begin to form as the album hits the half way mark and a mood of mortality creeps in, but nothing can ever dampen the tune-drenched optimism at the heart of James's music.

Alan Morrison

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