On his first official solo album, the former front-man of the Manchester, England, band James offers a bit of the familiar and a whole lot of sonic experimentation. While it may not entirely cohere as a listening experience, Bone presents a lot of ideas in often interesting ways.
“Life’s a bitch and I’m her whore/Life just takes you to the bone,” he sings on the tribal percussion-laden title track. More percussion and found sounds weave their way through “Monkey God,” an eco-anthem about the interconnectedness of the planet. The electro-pop “Love Hard” features guitar noise and some unusual vocal choices. Booth delivers a James-like, lighter-waving crowd-pleaser with the catchy chorus and nice groove of “Down to the Sea.” “My head’s full of self-pity and noise/I need a clean me/I need a new voice,” he sings. There are also some pretty, spare ballads, like “Falling In Love With Me” and “Careful What You Say.”
Unfortunately, Booth occasionally goes overboard in the lyrics department, trying to marry shocking statements to his more experimental soundscapes. The pretentious “Discover” offers these lines: “So I’ve been abuser and I’ve been abused/I’ve been the Nazi and I’ve been the Jew.” He sort of rap-sings over a slinky groove and some nice guitar work on “In the Darkness”: “My silent thoughts can’t penetrate your iPod with my foreplay.” And though the oedipal rocker “Eh Mamma” provides the record with a much needed jolt of energy, the song’s subject matter is often disturbing. “There never was a girl who’s good enough for Mamma,” he sings.
Ultimately, Bone is a record unlikely to make you forget Booth’s previous work. It lacks the catchy pop singles and Brian Eno-produced atmospherics that brought James a devoted following. Still, this is a consistently challenging creative statement from an interesting artist.
Tim Booth: www.timbooth.co.uk