This is a band that understands dynamics, and how make a song engaging, so they are already better than many of the other pretenders out there. Oftentimes, anger spills out of the pop on this album, but it doesn’t feel out of place at all.4/5
And there’s the dilemma. Do they rely on old tricks, or try to reinvent the wheel? There’s a little too much of the latter for this album to truly work.
The thought occurs that indie-pop stalwarts James aren’t dissimilar to a shark. Such is the Manchester octet’s devotion to exploring fresh textures, with an insatiable forward momentum, that if they stop moving it’s likely they’ll immediately shuffle off to the great gig in the sky. Fortunately, if the band’s most recent output – and especially this effort – is anything to by, they won’t be playing chess with the Grim Reaper any time soon.4/5
The cult band JAMES, formed in 1982, releases their 18th album this summer… and probably one of the best album of the year! As many pointed out … how can a band sound so fresh, re-invent himself [sic] at each album after more than 30 years? This band is a damn mystery. It sounds of course like JAMES, but the production and the sounding around is massive as rarely before in the bands discography.10/10
Maybe it is these extraordinary times that we are existing in that have energised the band, but it feels like a record that could easily slot in amongst their finest. There are enough bands and artists out there who only rehash their heritage, but James continue to stand nearly alone as a group who embrace the past but keep moving forwards.
After 35 years in the music industry, it’s remarkable that this record contains such varied content and experimental sounds. It’s an album that will seep into the very core of your soul, one way or another.
James singer Tim Booth has told BBC Radio 5 live that new song Coming Home (Pt 2) is about “being in denial” over how much he missed his young son while being away on tour. Booth teared up as he recalled seeing his son after an extended period away.
The album is a mix of the band’s sublime ‘90s alt rock sound with adventurous paths towards a more electronic sound, making for a satisfyingly original album that challenges any preconceived notions that the band is supposed to be little more than a nostalgia act for Gen X.
Full of swirling, occasionally transcendent arrangements, ‘Living In Extraordinary Times’ proves that, even on their 15th album, James are still a viable creative force.7/10
‘Living in Extraordinary Times’ is testimony that a band are not outdated due to their longevity; James move with the current, creating, as we can see here, music that captures the dichotomy of the past and something unheard of, something entirely unfamiliar.
Extraordinary Times is peak Big James, opening with elephantine drums like distant gunfire, warring with squalling guitars. Then Booth bursts in, sweaty and slightly terrifying. Remarkably, this 15th album might be their best.4/5
But what is most thrilling about Living in Extraordinary Times is that … it captures plenty of the eccentricity and vivacity that has always been an earmark of James’ most interesting – and best – work. It’s what continues to make them, as Booth once sang on ‘Boom Boom’, ‘too unique to be cloned’ ,and makes 2018 an extraordinary time for James.