Tag Archives: deluxe edition

James - "Justhipper"

James: “Justhipper – The Complete Sire and Blanco Y Negro Recordings 1986-1988”

“An earwig crawled into my ear / Made a meal of the wax and hairs.” Sorry, what? This isn’t James, the Manchester indie darlings who became huge with Sit Down and filled stadiums with anthems like Sound, Laid and She’s a Star, surely?

But yes, Justhipper captures James at an early transitional stage of their career. After a couple of singles for indie tastemakers Factory Records, they were snapped up by major label Sire, who then panicked and arranged to share custody of the band with faux-indie sister label Blanco Y Negro. This new compilation rounds up the two albums and handful of singles James recorded for the label.

Disc one finds us in 1986, taking in the fledgling band’s first major label single Chain Mail and its B-sides, plus début album Stutter. As evidenced by that opening line, there’s little to connect these recordings with the successful ’90s version of James other than the distinctive voice of frontman Tim Booth. Jangly guitars and awkward rhythms (Withdrawn, Billys Shirts) jostle for position with the bedsit angst of Really Hard and Black Hole, pitching the band like a kind of surrealist Smiths.

Somewhere between Stutter and second album Strip-mine there’s a shift of emphasis towards a more commercial approach. Nowhere is this more evident than disc two opener What For, a number 90 hit in the spring of 1988 and the first James release that would sit comfortably on a modern best-of album. There’s still enough outlandishness in Fairground, Vulture and obscure 12″ B-side Left Out Of Her Will to satisfy fans of the first album, but more polished tracks like Are You Ready and Stripmining demonstrate the band’s growing confidence and point the way towards their ’90s success. Sire didn’t see it, however, and after a brief spell at Rough Trade, James took their third album to Fontana and went to number 2 in the chart with both the album Gold Mother and career defining single Sit Down.

If you’re a fan of the band’s later work this may not be exactly what you’re expecting, but it’s a fascinating document of the band’s first steps on the road to success. It’s the James you know, just a little bit stranger.