It keeps the flame that was lit in 1976 well and truly alive, and for that we should...
Chris Jones 2002-11-20
Most people will remember Brian James as the guitarist who made the first Damned album such an adrenaline-packed ride of noise that they could never replicate. Many more remember him as the proto-goth messiah co-piloting the Lords Of The New Church through the 80s. However James, between the demise of the Lords and their reformation last year, was far from idle, as this double set reveals.
His one proper eponymous solo album, is here combined with Ready To Crack: tracks produced by Stones legend, the late Jimmy Miller under the name of The Dripping Lips. Three tracks (including the growling "Push Push") had appeared on the film soundtrack to Abracadabra and had aroused Miller's interest. The results, recorded with the same line-up, didn't come to light for another five years but Burning Airlines have done a fine job in re-releasing them with a commentary from James himself.
Both albums subscribe to the punk doctrine that James helped give birth to. While obviously owing a huge amount to Miller-period Stones ("Slow It Down" from Brain James is a fine example), BJ's Wayne Kramer-esque arpeggios give the whole thing a razor edge that never fails to get the body moving. It's a far more stripped-down approach than the Lords more lush dark textures and, as such, suits James no-nonsense approach to vocals as on "Becoming A Nuisance" and "Powerful", the opener on Ready To Crack. Yet this isn't merely a collection of three chord knockabouts. "Such A Lot Of Stars" is a charmingly melodic ballad that tugs at the heartstrings while "Popeyed" is a gloriously strange piece of guitar tomfoolery which shows that James is craftsman in this game we call Rock 'N' Roll.
All in all this collection provides a valuable document of a talent that, even in slower times and with very little critical encouragement, strives to make a great rocking noise. It keeps the flame that was lit in 1976 well and truly alive, and for that we should all be grateful.