The now-defunct James were known in the US mostly as the quirky British band responsible for "Laid," an amusingly joyous ode to a particularly insatiable lover. But if they were a mere one-hit wonder on this side of the Atlantic, they were anything but on their home turf. They sustained a two-decade career that included a stint on the infamous Factory label, opening gigs for the Smiths, and a respectable string of hit singles.
Getting Away with It, a live two-CD testament to the band’s career, is culled from their final homecoming show in Manchester last December, and it showcases a band who’ve decided to quit while they’re ahead. The trumpet-burnished "Born of Frustration" and "God Only Knows" and the maniacally strummed "Sometimes" are Brit hits that date from the early ’90s; yet their soaring beauty holds up. Earlier songs like the bass-driven Factory single "Hymn from a Village" and the poppy nugget "Come Home" may sound a bit dated, but they’re tuneful snapshots of a band in the process of finding their sound. And the more recent material — "Space," and "Getting Away with It," from the British-only 2001 album Pleased To Meet You — finds James at their most affectingly bittersweet. Best of all, Getting Away with It is a swan song that’s celebratory rather than sad.