I think like most people, I would’ve discovered James by way of their 1993 single ‘Laid‘. You know the song. Even if you don’t know the song, I’m sure you know the song. I didn’t really take much away from them as a group, I mean, sure, their music was well-crafted and catchy, but there wasn’t really much in it for me. Plus, the ambiguity of their name, and the apparent difficulty that Googling them held, it was a nightmare. Of course, a smarter person would type in ‘James band’ into Google rather than just ‘James’, but I digress.
When I started researching the famous Triple J Hottest 100 in my high school years, one song stuck with me for quite a while. That song was ‘Getting Away With It (All Messed Up)’, by James. The track got to quite a respectable #33 position, 21 lower than ‘Laid’ did seven years earlier, but it slipped by me completely upon its release.
I’ve enjoyed this song for a couple of reasons. Of course, it’s aesthetically sound, it’s well-constructed, and the group’s singer, Tim Booth (whose departure would cause the band to break up for a number of years after this album’s release), does a fine job, but its relatively ambiguous meaning left me intrigued for quite a while.
I looked this song up years ago when I first heard it, trying to make sense of it, and found that, like me, many others had trouble working out a meaning for it. Of course, back then I was marginally stupider, and now, looking back on it, the meaning is relatively simple. The group themselves mention that it’s about the ‘past, present, and future’, effectively meaning that it follows along with the notion of making mistakes in your life, but being able to sort out the problems later. In essence, it shows one’s ability to be able to get through your problems and your dark days, living to fight another day, but with scars to show, all the same. Or, in another way of looking at it, it’s about being able to ‘get away with it’, even if you might be a bit messed up in the end.