British rock band James's 28-year career has endured the kind of trials and tribulations that would make for a riveting episode of VH1's Behind the Music — unpaid £250,000 tax bills, drug addictions, and a six-year breakup — but its resplendent jangle pop lives on. While never commandeering the charts stateside, aside from its 1993 album Laid, the group yielded almost two dozen Top 40 singles in the UK, released ten studio albums, and sold more than 25 million albums worldwide. Just don't say anything to lead singer Tim Booth about the "next Smiths" — or worse still, the "second-rate Smiths" designation that was dropped on the band by the English press.
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Booth thinks Joy Division and Patti Smith are much more obvious influences on James' sound. But he doesn't have one bad word to say about the king of mope and his quartet because the Smiths were extremely supportive of his band early on. "They got famous first and then tried to get us famous," he says. "All part of a great legacy of Manchester bands looking after each other." Now, nearly three decades on, Booth is most proud of the fact that his band "hasn't tread any water" during its longevity. "All of our favorite bands usually burned out after a couple of albums. It's a great surprise to us that we can still be doing this for so long and putting out content that is spontaneous and alive."