Ambition has never been a stranger to James, perhaps the one band to work the most frequently with Brian Eno to the least amount of attention. After returning to action with 2008’s Hey Ma, the Mancunian quintet decided to dabble a bit with the shifting methods of releasing music in the new millennium via the EP set The Morning After/The Night Before, a pair of complementary EPs released separately in the U.K. and then in tandem in the U.S. The title is indeed a bit of a giveaway, indicating the mood each half of the project conveys, and mood is a large part of what this is all about, James creating teeming nocturnal soundscapes, alternating between the propulsive and seductive, on The Night Before, then slipping into a cool-down for The Morning After. By its very nature, The Night Before grabs upon its initial listen, being built upon urgent rhythms and loud guitars, letting Tim Booth scale to neo-operatic heights, but The Morning After succeeds in its own quiet way, maintaining a cool intimate vibe without seeming monochromatic. Each EP has a handful of standout songs -- the melodic thrust of “Make for This City” on Morning, the escalating drama of “Porcupine” on Night -- but what lingers is James’ controlled mastery of mood, how the band never pushes too hard yet never settles over the course of this quietly satisfying set.
The Morning After Review
by Stephen Thomas Erlewine