The release of a solo album by band front men, whilst their bands still exist, is often ill-advised and there are numerous examples to support this assertion. There are, however, a couple of counter arguments with Tim Booths latest offering. Firstly, this is the genuine follow-up to 2004s Bone album and the gestation period has only been this long because of the reformation of his band. Secondly and more importantly, it isnt actually a solo album but a collaborative effort. The album cover might suggest otherwise but this is really Booth & Baker (with a little help from an artist called KK). Booth is, of course, the lead singer of legendary Manchester band, James, whilst Baker is Lee Muddy Baker, the producer of that bands material since they reconvened in 2007.
So, Love Life, then. An instruction to love the life we lead? Or an insight into Booths own love life? The opening few songs certainly suggest the latter. As Far As I Can See is the first song that Booth has 100% written, on which he plays a musical toy, known as an omnichord. It is a rare, total love song from him. Buried Alive starts with pretty keyboards and violin, before that familiar vocal kicks-in and a tale of middle-aged married boredom unfolds, all told from the female viewpoint Harbour is the first of three co-writes with KK (Kevin Kerrigan) who had such a big hand in Bone. Domestic violence is the theme here, with the delightful melody being the counterbalance. All About Time is an out-and-out pop song and would surely have been chosen as a single release, in the days when such considerations were truly necessary. Here, Booth contemplates the pursuit of self-interest, in a very modern world. The chorus is skyscrapingly massive.
Light Shines out across this world is the mantra of massed voices in The Point Of Darkness, a rare moment of unreserved positivity. Consequences is the albums standout moment and it is no coincidence that this is another KK co-write. Booths breathy vocal combines beautifully with Bakers sparse keyboards and hypnotic beats, as the lyric explores the potential repercussions of embarking upon an affair. The guitar (played by House Of Loves Terry Bickers) shifts up a gear as desire overtakes consequence. Its back to more worldly events next. Delicate versus give way to a swollen chorus, as Bless Em All muses on the end of the world, no less. Meanwhile, the frankly bizarre Monsters dwells on the appetite of human beings for pessimism.
Do Yourself a Favour is the last of the efforts involving KK and it is becoming evident that these co-writes bring out the more personal of Booths lyrics. Here, he implores a new lover to give in to the inevitable and not to fight their new-found love. Shatters appears to revisit the apocalypse, post event, as the streets lie eerily empty. In the summer of 2010, Booth turned up at the poetry tent at Latitude Festival, to read some short stories, the most chilling of which was a tale about almost dying, whilst surfing in Hawaii. Gloria Descends is that same story explored in song. Im just passing through, opines Booth, over lush acoustic guitar. I feel privileged to be passing through at the same time.
This is an album that you feel Booth (and indeed Baker) needed to make. It is not just a worthy successor to Bone, it actually surpasses it. As to whether Love Life is an instruction or an insight, well, its actually a little of both and much else besides. But dont take my word for it, do yourself a favour and have a listen. The consequences will be wonderful.