Release Date: Sep 16, 2008
Record label: Decca
Genre(s): Rock, Pop
Seven years is not an extraordinarily long time between albums for bands in the new millennium (some bands take considerably longer), so only those who pay attention closely might realize that James split and reunited in the seven years separating 2001's Pleased to Meet You and 2008's Hey Ma. Apart from the lyrics -- the title track opens with an overt 9/11 reference, as Tim Booth sings "now the towers have fallen" -- Hey Ma is such an extension of the band's signature sound that it's possible to think no time has passed at all, yet that isn't quite accurate. Not that the band went out on a low note, but James do sound revitalized, energized by the time apart and, perhaps more importantly, sounding connected to the time at hand, making music for a world in turmoil that needs more voices of protest and hope.
Amazingly, it's been seven years since the last James album, during which the middle-management version of U2 split up "irrevocably", before deciding that nothing is irrevocable. Successful comeback shows in 2007 paved the way for this 10th studio album, which finds them in the rudest possible health, all towering guitars and majestic choruses. Singer Tim Booth address the personal, the political and the spiritual, and he drenches every subject, from the birth of his son in the song Bubbles to the title track's anti-war sentiment ("Hey, Ma, the boys in bodybags, coming home in pieces") with such quivering passion that it's hard not to be impressed.