James' music exists in past/future territory. Somewhere between Eccentric, Romantic, Tender, Crazy and Ecstatic. I think they probably discovered this place. Their best songs rank among the very best of british pop music: you find yourself thinking "I've never heard anything quite like this before, but it makes perfect emotional sense". It rings true -- Brian Eno 1997
At Manchester University Student Bar one evening in 1981, Tim Booth was dancing, whilst three men tried to steal his drink. He confronted them, so they asked him to dance for their band, known as "Model Team International". The next day they had their first rehearsal in a scout hut. Before long, Tim was promoted to singer, and the band was renamed "James"
From early on the band had certain ways of working. They shunned attention, preferring to let the songs speak for themselves. Their rehearsals were unstructured jam sessions. Afterwards, they would try and find the best bits on the tape. If they couldn't, they imitated it anyway. Somewhere along the way, some fantastic singles were recorded. It was a policy to "not minimise the risk of accidental music", and that was the way it worked.
Widespread sucess took a long time. Despite glowing reviews, and their home city being the musical center of the universe for several years, they never seemed to be as popular as they should have been. Even Sit Down, the horribly commercial single of 1989 didn't dent the charts noticably.
In 1991, the released their third album, Gold Mother, accompanied by a rerecording of Sit Down. All of a sudden, the UK couldn't get enough of them. They toured, played gigs and festivals everywhere and went top ten repeatedly.
After releasing a fourth album, Seven in 1992, they disappeared into a studio in Bath with producer Brian Eno. The result, Laid, was the highest point of their career, and the soundtrack to too many mellow evenings to mention. The limited edition Wah Wah was a welcome surprise for many, giving a good insight into how James work in the studio, their methods unchanged since their early rehearsals in Manchester.
And then... Nothing.
For three years James released nothing. Tim Booth recorded an album with Angelo Badalamenti to mixed reviews. Everyone thought James had given up.
Finally, in 1997, James released "Whiplash". It was much more upbeat than Laid, but with their unique sound. Unfortunately, it didn't have the same commercial sucess as Laid. In 1998 they released their "Best Of" album, along with with claims that more was on the way. Millionaires was released in 1999, getting a similar reaction to Whiplash.
Then once again... Nothing.