james - 'Living In Extraordinary Times' Album Review
2. Coming Home (Pt.2)
5. Many Faces
6. How Hard The Day
7. Extraordinary Times
8. Picture Of This Place
9. Hope To Sleep
10. Better Than That
12. What's It All About
13. Backwards Glances (Bonus Track)
14. Moving Car (Demo)
15. Overdose (Demo)
16. Trouble (Demo)
james are set to release their new album “Living In Extraordinary Times” on 3rd August 2018, their 15th studio album, following the release earlier this year of the brilliant “Better Than That” EP, with two of the tracks from that appearing on the album.
The album title (yes I know I got it wrong in the EP review…there’s a generous slice of Humble Pie sat next to me as I type – I’ll give you the recipe!) came about as a result of the strange events of the last few years, as Tim Booth puts it “We knew something was up when Leicester City won the league then Brexit, then Trump. It’s as if we'd slipped into an alternate reality, a Philip K Dick reality. We are living in extraordinary times.”
The album was recorded at Yellow Arch Studios in Sheffield and Brixton’s Iguana Studios, with Brian Eno making a guest appearance on the beautiful “Coming Home (Pt.2)” a kind of heartfelt ode to all the missed family moments touring and promotion brings, with the promise of the joy that coming home brings.
The album opens with “Hank”, which featured on the “Better Than That” EP, and the relevance of the lyrics still resonates…especially given the recent appalling treatment of immigrant families in America. The sheer, almost industrial, noise of the track with its layers of drums is a joy to listen to. There’s a similar sound at the start of “Extraordinary Times” which opens with Mr. Booth stating “F*ck you; I wanna f*ck you; until we break through; to the other dimensions; where we’re all one; before the Big Bang blew” Blimey…could at least offer to buy me a drink first! It then develops into a joyful, upbeat song with quite a sudden ending…not sure if it was just my promo version but it’s quite jarring and actually fits with the song.
“Leviathan”, “Mask” and “Picture Of This Place” feel like timeless james - soaring vocals, killer hooks and a chorus that stays with you for hours afterwards, while “Heads” picks up the baton from “Hank” and takes it on opening with “…it’s just a fever of greed; don’t believe in the white American dream” and the glorious refrain “Don’t say it’s OK; Bought into this crap; that we can’t take back”
“Many Faces”, a song about how we may look different but we’re all humans and should live together, starts off on a kind of acoustic/country-esque vibe that belies the sharply observed lyrics that are Tim Booth’s trademark.
“Better Than That” still sounds great and now that you hear it alongside the rest of the album (especially the closing “What’s It All About”) its subject matter and direction make more sense…on the EP it felt a bit out there on its own but now you can see how it’s all linked – at least to me…it may be that I’m just a little odd!
As you’d expect from james, there are a few melancholic little numbers in there – “How Hard The Day”, “Hope To Sleep” and (depending on the format you purchase) “Backward Glances” all of which are perfectly suited to a voice which can express that much depth of emotion.
The album ends with 3 demos (“Moving Car” “Overdose” and “Trouble”) – again your choice of format determines which one(s) you get. When I saw there were demos I got a bit excited – I think there’s something magical about listening to the raw, stripped back versions of songs but these sound much closer to finished articles than I was expecting. I would have loved to hear just Tim and a guitar/piano working out the songs, giving an almost tangible connection between the song, artist and listener. Having said that, they all sound pretty damn good and will hopefully grace future single releases.
So, how to sum up “Living in Extraordinary Times”? It’s a very, very good album and deserves to better the #2 entry that “Girl At The End Of The World” achieved. You may not love every song, but I guarantee you couldn’t class anything on this album as filler. I also have to point out that the artwork is exquisite and if (like me) you have one of those frames for mounting LPs it’ll look amazing on your wall.
Website - www.wearejames.com
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/jamesisnotaperson/
Review - Chris Watson