James

Millionaires

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    8
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AllMusic Review by

Going from the folk skullduggery of Stutter to the lavish club steps of Goldmother to the introspective beauty of Laid, James have never been predictable. The band's progression has delivered a seemingly inconsistent but impressive body of work, and Millionaires is no exception. Crisp, shiny, accessible pop songs such as "Crash" (sounding, oddly, like 1990's manic "Come Home" and the bittersweet, Laid-era B-side "The Lake"), "I Know What I'm Here For," and "Afro Lover," seem designed to go for Top 40 gold. For a band like James, this is unusual -- they've always seemed like the freaks and geeks of the school of popular and "credible" music. While it's not necessarily a bad thing for these outcasts to try to fit in, for at least half of the album it's exactly that: The flat, overproduced "Surprise" and the aimless "Dumb Jam" ignore the hook-laden nature of the band's past heights. Fortunately, the album's first half positively shines while taking this same populist approach. "Hello" succeeds with its hushed, electronic cries; "We're Going to Miss You" sounds like one of Midnight Oil's lost classics, simultaneously bitter and triumphant. Best of all, "Just Like Fred Astaire" somehow encapsulates every delirious high one feels when first falling in love. Essentially, the album two disparate halves: the former, an ecstatic stab of triumph and love, the latter, a mired, confused slab of dulling mediocrity. Indeed, Millionaires is as odd and unexpected as James' overall discography. With a little personal song programming, one can make it sound like the freaks and geeks knew what they were doing the entire time -- they might be a bit lost at times, but they have the creative heart that the musical jocks, cheerleaders, and hooligans would never, ever, own themselves.

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