Album Review: James – Living in Extraordinary Times

If you can count on anyone to stick around, it’s 90s’ Manchester band, James. Now consisting of eight members and with the helping hand of producer, Charlie Andrew (Wolf Alice), they’re set to release their fifteenth album: Living in Extraordinary Times.

The title itself wraps up the innovative social commentary lead vocalist, Tim Booth, clearly doesn’t shy away from. Opening track, ‘Hank’, is an anti-Trump anthem that questions the Presidents morals and humanity with distorted vocals and heavy drums. It also mentions tragedies that have occurred in America, pointing the blame on Trump himself and taking a stance pro-gun control. “NRA high fives / Orlando Sandy Hook Columbine”.

As a sequel to the 1989 hit, ‘Come Home’ (written about the guilt Booth felt after leaving his son) we see a different side to the father and son relationship, almost 20 years later. “I missed your seventh birthday / last kiss 5000 miles away / FaceTime on fathers day”. Though it might not be Romeo and Juliet, the song represents a love that struggled and succeeded through hardship. The twenty-year gap between ‘Come Home’ and ‘Coming Home – Pt. 2’ also shows it can stand the test of time. This song is also one of the more upbeat tracks on the album, perhaps relating back to the title? In these extraordinary times, there is always happiness to be found, not just suffering.

‘Hank’ isn’t the only track to be outspoken about its politics. ‘Heads’ begins very dramatically, almost setting the scene with quick drums and electronic beats. The lyrics are spoken over very ominous claps, “don’t believe in the white American dream / God bless inequality”. Much like the opening track, there is almost a dystopian feel to ‘Heads’. The synchronised beats get heavier as the song goes on and the vocals are very defiant, as if portraying a revolution of some sort.

The few tracks mentioned (with exception to ‘Coming Home – Pt. 2′) come across as extremely rebellious, attacking ideologies and insulting Presidents at every corner, “the crack head’s tiny fingers / accusing you of what he’ll do”. In spite of that, there are also more elevating and moving tracks, such as ‘Many People’. The fearlessness and creativity of Living in Extraordinary Times prove James aren’t still living in the 90s’, but rather more ahead with the times than one might expect; they certainly have a few things to say.

Words by Libby Briggs

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