Staggeringly, Living in Extraordinary Times is the 15th studio album from James. However, unlike most who rode the 90’s Indie wave, James are selling more albums now than they ever have before. 2014’s Girl at the End of the World was their most successful to date and was only kept off the top of the charts by the behemoth that was Adele’s 25.
Starting life over jam sessions at Sheffield’s Yellow Arch Studios, Living in Extraordinary Times begins with the same fuzzed out beats and electronic overtures as its predecessor. Although they are of a darker tone on this record. Opener Hank sees front man Tim Booth railing against the current political landscape. The lyrics having a stream of consciousness sound but carry sharp edged observation. A lot is conveyed in this 3 and half minutes of this track. From Trump and taking a knee, to Sandy Hook and the NRA. Booth says;
“We knew something was up when Leicester City won the (Premier) league. Then Brexit, then Trump. It is as if we’d slipped into an alternate reality, a Phillip K Dick reality. We are living in extraordinary times”
Fake News and and the divisiveness of current discourse is taken on in Heads, presenting an alternative view of a more cohesive American Dream. Booth’s take on US politics has no doubt been sharpened by the last decade living in California. Maybe that explains the West Coast psych sound of Picture the Place.
If political records turn you off, don’t fret. There’s still the towering James anthems in spades on this record. Leviathan, Many Faces, Extraordinary Times and Better That That are destined to raise a sea of hands skywards at forthcoming festivals. The whopping 15 tracks on this album also have some deeply personal moments for Booth. Such as How Hard the Day and Hope to Sleep and Coming Home Pt.2. Which features long time collaborator Brian Eno.
Living in Extraordinary Times is an extraordinary record from an extraordinary band. Who after 36 years together, still manage to making relevant, exciting records. Unbelievably, this latest album may be their best. So far….