ALBUM REVIEW: Wendy James – Queen High Straight (Proper W/S)
The former frontwoman of late ’80s pop-punks Transvision Vamp is back with her fourth solo album, and it proves beyond any doubt that she’s an artist of extremely diverse talent.
She rose to fame as the pop pin-up singer of songs like I Want Your Love and Baby I Don’t Care, and decided to go it alone when the band split after three albums.
When her solo career failed to ignite she had a decade-long break from the music industry before returning with indie-rock band Racine in 2004. Two albums later and they too were gone, but James re-emerged in 2011 with a second solo record, 18 years after her first.
She must be on a hot creative streak right now, as this is her second album in four years, following 2016’s The Price Of The Ticket, which saw her back in the charts for the first time in 23 years.
She’s joined again by drummer Jim Sclavunos from Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, but otherwise her band is given a complete revamp, with James Sedwards on guitar, Harry Bohay on bass, Alex J. Ward and Terry Edwards on horns and Louis Vause on accordion.
The jazzy title track opens proceedings gently, but she reveals herself to be a musical chameleon right away with Perilous Beauty, one of the standout songs on this sprawling work, which extends to 20 tracks and 79 minutes.
The vamp is back as she purrs “it’s all in the hips, the lips, the eyes and the thighs” on one of the lead tracks chosen to promote the album.
Thereafter, James demonstrates the range of her influences with everything from the whimsical (I’ll Be Here When the Morning Comes) to a full-blown punky guitar blast (The Impression Of Normalcy).
Cancel It … I’ll See Him On Monday is a catchy slice of ’80s indie-pop with added horns and accordion, while A Heart Breaking Liar’s Promise and Here Comes The Beautiful One have a funky Motown vibe..
The record ends on a high with Kill Some Time Blues, a 60s girl group number where she’s trying to get over a broken relationship, confessing “I’ve been smoking cigarettes, drinking beer and whisky, it’s always bad around this time, my days are anguished, my nights are sleepless, I’ve never known anything like this.”
James was due to tour the UK in May to promote this album, but Covid-19 means the dates have been rescheduled until September.
In the meantime, Queen High Straight is available on deluxe gatefold double vinyl, gatefold deluxe or regular CD, and digital download from her website here, along with other merchandise.