Veteran musician and performer Wendy James is back with her third solo record The Price of The Ticket since her two previous bands Transvision Vamp and Racine both split in in 1992 and 2008 respectively.  She’s has been making music on and off since 1986, including having the honour of Elvis Costello penning an album for her (Now Ain’t the Time for Your Tears) in 1993.  James’ classic punk rock sound has earned her a company of loyal admirers both in the musical sphere and the art world.

Playing with her on this record is an all-star cast: Jim Sclavunos on drums (Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds), Lenny Kaye on guitar (The Patti Smith Group) and Glen Matlock on bass (The Sex Pistols).  There are also contributions from James Williamson and Steve Mackay from Iggy and the Stooges.  With a line-up like that, this album cannot be bad – and it isn’t.  It’s one of the best releases so far this year.

Singling out a few songs is difficult here – they could all be the high point of some album.  The opening track is ‘Paloma’s Downs’ which features loose PJ Harvey style guitar, Bob Dylan-esque vocal inflections and towering piano riffs.  There is plenty of old-fashioned punk to enjoy in ‘King Rat’, ‘Bad Intentions and a Bit of Cruelty’ and ‘Cowboy Rhythm’.  If you want something slower and more introspective, ‘Indigent Blues’ and ‘Farewell to Love’ are your best bet.  There are some oddities too.  ‘Why Oh Why Do You Hurt Me Still’ is a Buddy Holly variety of love song with an almost country edge to it.  James also borrows from the 60’s in ‘Love From The 9th’.  Rounding off the album are two cover songs: ‘You’re So Great’ by Fred “Sonic” Smith, and ‘It’s Alright Ma’ the Bob Dylan classic.  The latter puts blood and vigour into this wordy song, where Dylan sounded merely resigned.

The highlight and keystone of the album is ‘You’re a Dirtbomb, Lester’.  The tune builds steadily with the repeated benediction “I just wanted to play music, it was a magic thing, the thrill I got”.  The climax of the song extols the eternity of love and its’ constant presence throughout history.  James lists key points of European colonial history and ends the bridge by shouting “Credit Mark Twain!” It’s a throwback to nineties punk with grit, substance and sincerity – a beautiful reminder of when artists weren’t afraid to mean something instead of hiding behind irony and getting stuck in the fashionable past: she focuses on timelessness.  James is characterised by her fearless candour and had always been absolutely current – even when flirting with past eras.  It seems at some point along the way, music makers became so afraid of being thought stupid, that they neglected to think at all.

The Price of The Ticket is a powerhouse of an album which is certain to please established fans of Wendy James as well as attracting some new admirers.  The dynamics of this record, the peaks and troughs between roaring fury and softer, more wistful tunes showcase James’ versatility as an artist, and her dalliances with different genres and eras reinforce that eclecticism.  Her assured sound coupled with perfect modernity and experimentation is what had always placed James above the rest and this newest release demonstrates it yet again.

Get the Album here –

Music Reviews Editor.

Originally from Sligo, I have a Bachelors degree in Music and a MA in Modernity, Literature and Culture. I also have between eight and thirty shins. Do follow on Twitter to hear my daily picks of songs, old and new, there’s a good lamb.