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The second full-length by Manchester quartet James found them still struggling for their own identity as the overall sound of Strip-Mine continued to be deeply influenced by the Smiths. Songs like the jangling "What For" and the upbeat stomp of "Are You Ready" have the same blend of breezy melody and lyrical discontent as Morrissey and company. There's more than enough worth listening to on Strip-Mine as, along with the aforementioned, tracks like the horn-driven "Charlie Dance"; the spry, folk-pop of "Fairground"; and the perky "Ya Ho" are catchy, if not exactly memorable. Everything has a crisp, clean feel, without being distant, thanks to the hand of noted producer Hugh Jones and, although not essential listening, Strip-Mine is of interest to fans of late '80s British alternative rock.

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