Tim Booth: We change our set-list every night, usually about an hour before we get on stage, but I don’t like the idea of being tied down to a record. We aren’t about nostalgia; we’re not a heritage band. We play a lot of new songs when we play live and the stuff we’re writing now is as good as anything we’ve ever written – if not better.
James have survived the vicissitudes of time, despite the singer Tim Booth coming across like a drawstring trousers-wearing soya-milk enthusiast forever threatening to lecture you on the benefits of tantric sex.3/5
Coming home? James have never been away.3/5
It can get a bit overripe at times, like the big drums and big guitar strums that accompany Booth’s big thoughts in “Extraordinary Times”. But mostly the music is sinewy and sleek indie-rock, a vibrant statement of continuing intent.3/5
There is something undeniably impressive about James’ durability. Formed in Manchester 36 years ago, they toured with The Smiths, signed to Factory, kept pace with Madchester and Britpop and still sound more with it than bands half their age. If Coldplay released this, it would be no disgrace.3/5
“This album is one of the best we’ve ever made,” said Booth. “We didn’t know which songs to leave off and we had a big fight over it because we made too many. We had about 15 songs and we didn’t want to put them all on, that’s why we released an EP, but those songs on the EP were some people’s favourite songs in the band. We’ve made something very fresh and exciting.”
Being one of the most idiosyncratic bands in modern rock history, this means Living in Extraordinary Times is plenty quirky, even if James address the Trumpian turmoil in a direct fashion that speaks both to their inherent grandiosity and Tim Booth’s allergy to metaphors. Booth raves about “fake news” on “Heads,” one of the many explicit allusions to meme double-speak and other modern plagues scattered throughout the album, but even if his words are foregrounded, they’re overwhelmed by the sheets of sounds and surplus of ideas teeming throughout the album.3.5/5
James is a band that makes me smile. Over the years they have caught my imagination, surprised me with their catchy riffs, and not been scared to approach themes that many bands, then and now, shy away from. This album, unlike their last two offerings, Girl At The End Of The World, and La Petite Mort, has a sense of urgency, verging on anger, at world events, matters of the heart, and time lost with family.4/4
This is, in short, a wonderful record – full of thumping percussion, witty lyrics and a pinch of this and drop of that. It’s a real amalgamation of musical styles. Whether intentionally or not, we have hints of U2, The Killers, Interpol, Keane, The Courteeners and even Underworld strewn throughout.8/10
The band have always been ones to experiment but they should be applauded for going against the entropy of repeating successful formulas so enticing in any ongoing endeavor. Especially at this late stage of the game with James’ recent releases continuing to push the envelope further and further. In every track on Living In Extraordinary Times they really go for it, taking chances that pay off most of the time.7/10
Saul Davies: “What I think you’re alluding to there is that we’re in our 37th year and what you and I are discussing here is about songs we’ve just made. It’s really refreshing and really heartening to me that I’m in a position whereby we’re not having to talk about ‘Sit Down’ and all that. I think that’s testament to the fact that we have pushed it, and we are moving forward.”
James delivers unadulterated dialog as always, embedding urgent matters into challenging melodic expression. It also strips its sound to bare essentials in vulnerable moments, creating an extraordinary sonic dynamic.