James, Living In Extraordinary Times - album review
'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'.
These are the words of James frontman Tim Booth when discussing the band's new, 15th record. And he has hit that nail so much on the head its embedded itself in concrete.
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.
It is pretty unique, particularly with its focus on drumming duties split between David Baynton-Power and Deborah Knox-Hewson. It's hard, yet uplifting.
Better Than That for example. It has one of the poppier choruses on the record with brass and guitars combining with soaring backing vocals to elevate it into a stadium sing-along. Yet thumping it all along are the drums. Integral throughout like most songs on the record they simply cannot be ignored and hold your head in place demanding your attention.
And on the broodier side we have the opening track Hank. Thundering like a Depeche Mode-esque warning siren it really hammers home the discontent of Booth's vocals taking a pop at the current Trump era Stateside.
The title track, too, is magnificent. Slower and yet no less foreboding, it again uses hard-hitting drums to give the swooning guitars extra bite.
And when we really strip things back on Hope To Sleep, it's still got enough feeling in the music to create a sense of foreboding. The bass line here is sumptuous, Jim Glennie's fingertips crafting something Interpol's former rhythm maestro Carlos D would salivate over.
While perhaps a tad long, the album demands to be heard from start to finish. In an era of short and quick pleasures in music, singles and downloads etc, this shows albums are still alive and kicking in their power to tell a story and create an experience that needs to be heard in full.
James have recently announce a few dates from a co-headline tour with The Charlatans. This is expected to be expanded in the near future, including a local date