James – Living in Extraordinary Times
James are back with a nineties feel on their 15th album Living in Extraordinary Times, but there's something different happening here
'We knew something was up when Leicester City won the league,' says James' Tim Booth. May you live in interesting times...
Coming Home (Pt.2) opens up with funny keyboard noises courtesy of Brian Eno, and Tim Booth singing at the very edge of his range about 'coming home.' So far, so nineties. But there's something else happening here. You can hear it in the massive melody and skittering percussion powering Leviathan, the electro-pulses driving Heads and the industrial landscape at the heart of the stunning Smiths-esque Extraordinary Times.
James are back then, but they never really went away... sure, there was a sabbatical following the successes that followed The Best Of over two decades ago, but lots of albums have come and gone since then. Blink (or forget to get tickets for the tour) and you'll have missed them, but there were great moments on the likes of Millionaires (1999), Pleased to Meet You (2001) and Hey Ma (2008). Albums have come at a brisk pace in the last few years, but there have been some diminishing returns as the Manchester troupe try to find the balance between the big hitters and the bit between their teeth.
Better Than That combines an edge with an indie disco chorus nicely, and the urgent Mask races along on strummed acoustic guitars that provide a nice bed for Booth's stunning vocal, but the dichotomy at the heart of James is displayed beautifully during the pulsating precision of closer, What's It All About; 'Sing to my confessor / I was made to pleasure.' The taut tune hovers, rather than soars and finds its truth hiding somewhere inside yet another literate litany from the singer.
Coming home? James have never been away.
Listen to: Extraordinary Times, Mask, What's It All About