James

Living In Extraordinary Times

Infectious/BMG

Aug 02, 2018 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


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"Hello, surprise" Tim Booth and co. sang on their Millionaires album almost 20 years ago and with Living In Extraordinary Times they continue to play with our expectations both sonically and melodically. 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. The "horror-show of American politics" haunts the album, with Booth, a resident of California these days, writing his lyrics with a first-hand view. Pulling no punches, he takes the corruption head on in "Hank," one of the heaviest songs James have ever put down on tape. But the singer's decision not to let Trump "have this record" allows a fuller picture of life to emerge with all its varied aspects, our oneness as people being a major theme. The refrain in "Many Faces" "there's only human race, many faces, everybody belongs here"is particularly moving.

A certain romanticness prevails throughout the album, all the mightier for being born of a mature yearning for peace and love rather than escapist fantasy. Gorgeous and passionate, the "bruised love" of album highlight "Leviathan" shows this in spades. "Coming Home (Pt. 2)," thematic follow-up to the 1989 single, comes at you from many different directions, chaos blasting off with its heartfelt lyric. The song's expansiveness is reminiscent of the huge space of the Seven album. On the opposite end of the spectrum, in the middle of "How Hard the Day," they bravely drop down to a single note guitar and voice, paying off by the strength of the melody.

Back to the big on the title track, "Extraordinary Times" is very catchy, with a memorable opening line, its chorus dropping to a dreamy softness before frantically strummed guitars kick up the feel again. "Better Than That" is a bit obvious in its being a pop song but due to that very nature you're won over by the end. Lovely little moments resonate throughout bonus track "Backwards Glances." But you'd be a fool not to fork out for the deluxe version with its three extra demos. The mind reels as to why these weren't finished for the album. "Moving Car" is lovely, one of the best songs here. Sonically recalling the darker side of Laid, the band perfectly capture late teenage evenings of the past while lamenting we don't take the time to enjoy these, or any of life, as it is happening. "Overdose" is somewhat overwrought but works as it moves along and further sounds join the vocal. "Trouble" is a shadow version of late-'80s/early-'90s James, more proof that a whole album, or at least an EP, of these three demos would be most welcome. As it stands though, Living In Extraordinary Times is a triumph for the band as their great songs continue to move to new territory. (www.wearejames.com)

Author rating: 7/10

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