Today’s re-release is ‘Skullduggery’, the opening song of the first album “Stutter”, which explodes with a mess of folky guitars and in which Tim Booth sounds absolutely out of his head and insane.
With Mark Cherril as cover star, this song is seen as almost an Irish jig, an incongruously jolly account of how “an earwig crawled into my ear/made a meal of wax and hairs/phoned friends, had an insect party… You can hear them laughing in my head…” the implicit subtext is possession, an obsession of Tim Booth’s at the time : “I was convinced I would go mad before thirty!”.
The song is also an incongruously jolly account of how ‘an earwig crawled into an ear/Made a meal of the wax and hairs/phoned friends, had an insect party … You can hear them laughing in my head/you can hear them laughing in my head/Ha ha ha ha ha/ Now they’ve eaten my memory, I can’t recall /How the world used to be before.’ The implicit subtext is possession, an obsession of Tim Booth’s at the time, ‘I was convinced I would go mad before thirty.’
There was a reason James made an early impact, and this is it. It sounds absolutely nothing like their later material. The only common factor in the sound is Tim Booth – although the guitars do remind of their much later single ‘Sometimes’ if you squint a little.