OK, I’m gonna start with a disclaimer. Like many my age – specifically, many blokes my age – Wendy James always had a certain… quality beyond her musical talents that drew us in. If Transvision Vamp were appearing on Top Of The Pops, we’d be happy to suffer the bland cheese of Peter Powell or even La Edmonds, because we knew that soon we’d have the combined ear- and eye-candy that was the latest single from Wendy and the band. Anyone listing artists that typified their era had to include TVV in their coverage of the late 80s.
Fast forward… can it really be thirty years? Sadly for all of us, yes it is, and Wendy is back with a new album. And it’s a brilliant one.
Wendy has emerged from the troubled period post-Vamp, where numerous ventures didn’t quite live up to hopes. But it’s clear that the (I know – cliché time) journey has been worthwhile, because what we have now is a singer that knows herself, knows her voice, and certainly knows what her audience wants.
I had the absolute pleasure of meeting Wendy and the band last year at The Roundhouse in London when she was supporting my good friends The Psychedelic Furs, and (after being mistaken for one of her VIPs!) chatted to her a few times before and after the gig. And it’s an absolute truth that Wendy, like so many of the artists on that quasi-retro scene, loves the thrill of performing just as much now as when she first started.
So what’s the new album like? I can sum it up in the following words.
Firstly, it’s diverse. Twenty tracks with so many different feels. The title track is smooth and sophisticated, and then you’re immediately into Perilous Beauty, a far darker and raw track, almost the mirror image of it’s predecessor. And as you move through the songs, you get these style clashes, as when you move from the sixties sound of Little Melvin through the Truffaut café scene of Marlene Et Fleur to the driving force of Chicken Street. From the acoustic harmonies of Testimonial, to the brashness of The Impression of Normalcy.
Second, it’s so memorable. So many of the tracks have those essential trigger lines that stick in the brain to the point where you suddenly find yourself thinking of them hours or days later.
Next – it’s highly professional. Not that I’m suggesting anything else was expected, but the combination of Nick Cave drummer James Sclavunos, guitarist James Sewards, bassist Harry Bohay, Alex Ward and Terry Edwards on horns, and accordionist Louis Vause comes together to deliver a full, tight sound.
And lastly – and this is possibly the best compliment I think I could give Wendy or any vocalist – there are a few tracks on the album when I honestly pictured the late and very great Kirsty McColl. To bring a sound that evokes her memory is an achievement indeed.
So where does this leave us? Well, it leaves me very happy to be listening, keen to get this virus thing behind us so I can get to another gig, and you clicking here to order your copy: https://thewendyjames.com/store/
Queen High Straight running order:
1. Queen High Straight (4.31)
2. Perilous Beauty (4.08)
3. Free Man Walk (3.39)
4. Stomp Down, Snuck Up (4.14)
5. Little Melvin (4.52)6. Marlene et Fleur (4.00)
7. A Heart Breaking Liar’s Promise (5.11)
8. Here Comes The Beautiful One (3.45)
9. Chicken Street (4.13)
10. Testimonial (4.18)11. Bar Room Brawl & Benzedrine Blues (4.07)
12. Ratfucking (2.35)
13. She Likes To Be (Underneath Somebody) (3.21)
14. Bliss Hotel (4.00)
15. Freak In (3.05)16. The Impression Of Normalcy (3.36)
17. I’ll Be Here When The Morning Comes (4.15)
18. Cancel It… I’ll See Him On Monday (3.37)
19. Sugar Boy (4.00)
20. Kill Some Time Blues (4.18)