Back in May, indie legends James embarked on a seven date tour of UK venues, in support of their ‘Better Than That’ EP. On the first date of the tour, they thrilled fans by announcing the details of ‘Living In Extraordinary Times’; their fifteenth album that they went on to debut live material from during the tour and at festivals over the Summer.
The band kick things off with the explosive ‘Hank’; an anti-Trump track that packs one hell of a punch, before the familiar video calling tone from the intro of their latest single ‘Coming Home (Pt.2)’ fills our ears. ‘Coming Home (Pt.2)’ is a sequel to their synth siren fuelled hit ‘Come Home’, tackling the negatives aspects of touring and tugging at our heartstrings with lyrics such as “my life is always leaving” and “missed you when you’re small”. As we reach the hushed vocal towards the end of love song ‘Leviathan’ (“ride inside your starship, never twice the same trip, hold me in your tight grip, healing for the love sick”) it’s clear just three songs in that once again, Tim Booth has outdone himself lyrically.
‘Living In Extraordinary Times’ is a heavily percussive album with a groove that runs right the way through it – most apparent in the pulsating ‘Heads’ and the title track that really sees James dive into the unknown. Starting off slowly with keyboard wizardry from Mark Hunter and dramatic drumming patterns from David Baynton-Power, ‘Living In Extraordinary Times’ is a lyrically brave track (“Fuck you, I wanna fuck you till we break through into other dimensions”) that evolves into pure euphoria as it reaches its huge chorus that’s easy to imagine being sung back at the band during their future live sets; “we can hold it all, hold it all together, in this never ending game of hide and seek.”
From poignant moments such as the downbeat ‘How Hard The Day’ and ‘Hope To Sleep’, to the frantic ‘Picture Of This Place’, that sees the band collaborate to create a multilayered masterpiece, to the unifying ‘Many Faces’, James really have provided it all and the record captures the bands dynamic perfectly. ‘What’s It All About?’ brings the album to an almighty end, taking the listener on a seven and a half minute journey of two halves with its menacing drums, screaming guitar and soaring trumpet leading the first half, slowing down to a simple refrain and leaving Booth’s vocals to end the album, alongside the strum of an acoustic guitar and peaceful background atmospherics.
It would be criminal to not mention the four bonus tracks that are available on the deluxe CD of the album; the stunningly beautiful ‘Backwards Glances’ and demos of ‘Moving Car’, ‘Overdose’ and ‘Trouble’. It’s not often that a bands bonus tracks are as strong as their album tracks, but that’s definitely the case here. ‘Backwards Glances’, the heartbreaking ‘Overdose’ and ‘Trouble’ all had their live debut last Summer, with the infectiously catchy ‘Trouble’ in particular leaving a lasting impression on fans.
Fifteen albums down, James boast an extensive career and back catalogue, yet are still releasing fresh material that’s just as good (if not better) than their previous releases. We’re truly living in extraordinary times and with the release of their ‘Better Than That’ EP and ‘Living In Extraordinary Times’ this year, it’s certainly a wonderful time to be a James fan!
James ‘Living In Extraordinary Times’ is available now via BMG Records.