Picks and Pans Review: James

updated 11/25/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/25/1991 AT 01:00 AM EST

James

In concert this year, the English pop band James has been whipping its young British fans into a dancing boil with its smiley-face melodies and bubbling beat. But when lead singer Tim Booth launches into the British hit "Sit Down," a curious thing happens.

"Those who feel the breath of sadness, sit down next to me," Booth sings, and packs of partiers collapse into their seats. "Those who find they're touched by madness, sit down next to me." Others sit. "Those who find themselves ridiculous, sit down next to me." Soon the whole crowd is seated, chanting the chorus, "Sit down, sit down, sit down."

James is making people listen. After its perky and intelligent album (Gold Mother) went nowhere last year, the seven-man group from Manchester (named for its bassist, Jim Glennie) is suddenly a contender for the Chris Isaak belated-fame award. "Sit Down" went to No. 2 in England last spring, and now American campuses are buzzing about James, which includes eight tracks from Gold Mother, along with "Sit Down" and one other new tune.

In his lyrics, Booth rails against corrupt evangelists, celebrates the beauty of childbirth and, in one of the album's best tunes, "Come Home," expresses the complex feelings that follow a romantic breakup. The album's easy, carefree choruses are surrounded by a good deal of musical variety, ranging from ragged electric spasms to a grownup lullaby.

James will tour the U.S. early next year. Let's hope Booth and company don't write a new song titled "Spit on a Friend." Considering the band's talent for crowd control, that could get messy. (Fontana/Mercury)

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