100 Greatest Songs of the 90’s #26 James – Born of Frustration

Released : 1992

It was impossible to imagine at almost any point in the decade before that James would eventually garner a reputation as a singles band. An outfit who like many others laboured under the strictly temporary “Morrissey’s favourite” tag, they’d made their sketchy, preoccupied sounding debut with Stutter in 1986 and since then had actively seemed to be avoiding anything other than cult status.

They’d been similarly condemned originally by areas of the music press as the winsome heroes of what was first generation “Indie”, a label which at that point to the assembled detractors was symbolised by both it’s general passivity and idealism. Then Tim Booth wrote a tune called Sit Down, whilst the Manchester around them took on a semi-mythic status which if you’d been looking for it had actually been there for years. Rough Trade supremo Geoff Travis told Booth after the original seven minute version of the track flopped that they’d never sell more than 20,000 records; they had him sign over the rights to it shortly before the label went bust.

Always mindful, they spent the next few years trend-dodging, understanding that nothing in popular culture is built to last. By early 1992 a sort of ground zero was coming, but the Tsunami of Nevermind wasn’t yet quite visible when Born of Frustration appeared. The song was an affirmation that accidental hit making had been just that, chiming, throwback guitars and a plaintive trumpet coerced into fragmentary, more oblique joy. ‘Stop stop talkin ’bout who’s to blame’ Booth crooned ‘When all that counts in how to change’. Change they had. A singles band for people who didn’t like singles; this was a coat they could try on next.

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