Tim Booth


LOVE LIFE is a collaboration between James’ front-man Tim Booth and producer and multi-instrumentalist Lee “Muddy” Baker. Booth first met Baker in Brighton around 2000 and the latter subsequently produced Booth’s first solo album Bone in 2004 as well as James’ albums Hey Ma, The Night Before and The Morning After. On Love Life, however, aside from the appearance of a choir and violin, Baker plays 90% of the instruments.

I mention this because Love Life would not be Love Life without the relationship that Tim and Lee bring to the record. James’ records are multi-collaborative whereby Booth comes up with a lyric and a melody and the song mutates into something beyond his control. Whereas Love Life, says Tim, is “the record that me and Lee were meant to make.” The title came about after Booth started contemplating what life would be like if the world started crashing down around him. He concluded: “whatever great or terrible things happen, you’ve got to accept them and try to love life.”

Having said that there’s a dichotomy on Love Life between the macro and the micro: the world is being threatened by war, famine, disease, flood and poverty (as well as some unidentified more nebulous attacker) whilst the home is being threatened by divorce, adultery and violence. Indeed, much of Love Life is concerned with relationships and the consequences of embarking upon them. Album opener As Far As I Can See (which features Booth playing a children’s toy instrument, an Omnichord) is a case in point. The song is autobiographical, about as traditional a love song as we’re going to get and touches on the positive aspects of getting shacked/loved-up; “For as far as I can see/We were carved from the same tree/Two lonely refugees/Trying hard just to get home.” Before we get carried away in domestic bliss however, Buried Alive, which swiftly follows, is its nemesis. Sung from a woman’s point of view, the song features piano and violin and has a pretty-but-maudlin, Michael Nyman-esque flavour to it. The crucial line turns out to be “From the high life to a housewife” (although the line “Whatever happened, happened to me” runs it a close second) and one can’t help thinking of a valium-induced neurosis brought on by the tedium of a long-dead marriage.

Domestic violence rears its ugly head in Harbour (co-written with Kevin KK Kerrigan) - “Cos you are my harbour and I am your storm”- which is reminiscent of Lou Reed (both vocally and with its shuffle beat) and segues into All About Time, the most intriguing track on the album. Not unlike the Strokes in their heyday, the song positively reeks of the city, hardly surprising when you consider its subject matter – the speed and intensity of urban life and the period of affluence it has engendered. The rush-hour mentality (and pursuit of self-interest) is summed up in the lines “While starving homeless orphans fight/For food and water, love and life/While I can waste a day online/Shopping for a butter knife.”

Love Life continues with The Point Of Darkness (“At the point of darkness/Here comes this beautiful light”) which is the album’s Everybody Hurts and a mantra one might chant to oneself in moments of terror or weakness. It’s a beautiful song and one that sets the scene for Consequences (another KK co-write featuring ex-House of Love’s Terry Bickers on guitar), the album’s centerpiece if not its coda. Here Baker whistles over the catchiest of beats (reminiscent of All Saints’ Never Ever) and Booth imagines the consequences of someone thinking about (and then embarking upon) an affair (“You’re crossing the line/ Between the thought and deed.”) It’s a pertinence we were expecting.

Side Two of the record  - and I think you know what I mean - kicks off with Bless ‘Em All, a biblical piece that might as well be a hymn. The adumbration involves falling towers and Man standing against Tanks and we are acutely aware of some kind of imminent apocalypse. Booth explains that the song has partly been inspired by the countless theories about the end of the world  - from Christ’s own teachings that the world was going to end in his lifetime to Nostradamus and the current 21/12/12 proclamations.  It features a choir and Booth preaching that “love is the cure” and the madcap imagery leads naturally into Monsters, one of the oddest compositions you are likely to encounter this side of the millennium. Booth explains that the song is “coherent in its incoherence” and that it’s “a trip, a shamanistic episode” and you can see what he means. He name-checks DMT (the strongest hallucinogen) as well as Nembutol (an extremely hypnotic drug) and it’s hardly surprising that he begins to imagine a rabbit wearing a waistcoat, watch on a chain, and some “monsters coming to get you”. Jocularity aside, Booth appears to be making the serious point that human beings sub-consciously seem to expect the worst and to be wishing for their own personal apocalypse.

Love Life concludes with three of the best: Do Yourself A Favour (another song co-written by KK) is a wonderfully epic ode to a new lover, imploring her to “accept I’m into you/Bypass dramas of insecurity/You could put me through” – in other words, to get on with it; Shatters is a companion piece to Bless ‘Em All, except this time we’re post-apocalypse and streets are “abandoned”, shutters are “torn from walls” and “wild dogs flit between the wrecks; and Gloria Descends was inspired by a near death experience Booth had whilst surfing in Hawaii. Booth is still fascinated by the spirituality and patience of the night-surfers that people a beach he frequents as well as the respect he now has for a wave. The song is a person al apocalypse of sorts and Booth concludes: “I’m just passing through”.

Amazingly, it is thirty years now since James formed in the Whalley range district of Manchester. Since those heady days, the band may have gone on to release ten studio albums - selling more than 12 million copies worldwide  - but there is a sense in which they, and in particular, Booth – are England’s best kept secret. But to answer your question – the one you were going to ask; what is the difference between a James record and a Tim Booth record? Well, the latter is something Booth can be “intensely, personally proud of”. Of course, there are bound to be similarities – and their combination of downbeat lyrics and uplifting music springs to mind - but Love Life’s singular vision is something that’s sure to hit a nerve with those who are lucky enough to be able to think and feel at the same time. Although, as I pointed out, the record is by no means a solo record, rather a collaboration with a man (Lee Baker) who provides both the orchestration and the artwork (see http://www.leebakerart.com for further examples) that this extraordinary piece of work demanded. I just wish they could have both agreed on a 22/12/12 release date.

Tim Booth releases Love Life through his own label Monkey God Records via Absolute on April 4th 2011. He performs a series of dates in the UK from April 20th 2011.