An original vision
RockerDad | Renton, WA USA | 03/09/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"James was a wonderful and extraordinary band-they almost hit it big in the U.S. with 'Laid', but didn't quite crossover ala Blur, Oasis, or heck, even Elastica. However, as is discernable from this, their wonderful full-length debut, they were a band with a unique vision, that I think didn't quite fit in with the trends/styles of the time (Imagine if they appeared now, in the wake of The Shins, Iron & Wine, or even Death Cab for CUtie!).
Nonetheless, STUTTER was an astounding debut for a young band. With an upbeat, punky feel (Gil Norton even engineered it: pre-Pixies, Catherine Wheel, Foo Fighters) combined with an aching folk sensibility, they were trying their hands at combing the waters of the Violent Femmes and The Smiths-yet in some ways they were more successful than either of those seminal bands. As you can hear on an album highlight, 'So Many Ways', their songs sometime achieve a sensitive, soaring beauty that might not be expected from this type of music. And the vocal arrangements are unique, intricate, and spectacular here-easily the most creative of all their albums.
In fact, discounting LAID (their unquestionable masterwork), this is easily their most creative, entertaining, and emotional release. From the stipped-bare version of 'Why So Close' (an edgier, rocking out version appears on their earlier e.p. HYMN FROM A VILLAGE-absolutely seek it out if you can find it-spectular stuff!) to the fade-out speeded-up closer of 'Black Hole', this album is a delight.
James veered more into arena anthems and electronica experimentations with some of their later albums, but STUTTER captured them at their essence: raw, punky, folky, witty, and beautiful. And yes, live, they were a marvel."