Angelo Badalamenti’s lush, dreamy film and TV soundtracks seduced many a leftfield musician and James’ Tim Booth was no exception.

Booth and the Bad Angel

In thrall to the American composer’s succulent symphonies, he was in touch with him for four years before their schedules allowed them to make this one-off 1996 album.

The long wait was worth it. Booth And The Bad Angel was a delicious, delirious album on which Badalamenti’s rich sonic tapestries and Booth’s tilted, querulous poeticism dovetailed beautifully. It was that rare collaboration – two star names meeting and neither having to dim their wattage.

Such collaborations can easily sink into a welter of self-indulgence but here was a record with style, soul and pop smarts. Opening track I Believe, with Booth’s ever-questing voice soaring over his partner’s neatly restrained strings, could have been taken from a hit 1990s James album such as Laid. It was a Top 30 hit.

Other moments were decidedly more leftfield. The rocky, lascivious seven-minute Butterfly’s Dream found Booth coyly confessing to a rampant libido: “I’d like to sleep with the whole town.” On Stranger, he stalked adrift and wild-eyed against the most fractured, elusive of Twin Peaks-like soundscapes.

Bernard Butler thickened the exotic mix yet further, adding swirls of Suede-like guitar to jagged tracks like Heart, while Brian Eno fetched up singing backing vocals. Best of all was the fevered, whispered Life Gets Better on which Booth and Badalamenti traded barbed, gnomic one-liners: “Life gets better.” “Life gets bitter?”

The two protagonists went their separate ways and there were to be no further near-meetings of their busy minds. No matter: Booth And The Bad Angel was a sharp, winning and emotionally intelligent left-handed art-pop album.
Two decades on, it still is.

8/10

Ian Gittins

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