James: Living in Extraordinary Times review – big songs and bug-eyed passion

(Sunday Best)

Unlike most acts whose salad decade was the 90s, Mancunian veterans James refused to accept their reduced circumstances after reforming 11 years ago. With eight regular players, the band is the largest it’s ever been, and they’re still writing songs that swing for the furthest festival fences. Last album Girl at the End of the World became their highest charting ever, and its sequel is suitably confident, powerful and tumescent with Trump/Brexit rage. 

Singer Tim Booth evokes everything from dystopia to disgust, truculence to triumph, selling each emotion equally well, his bug-eyed passion rippling through every line. Yes, at their worst James remind you why grunge was such a necessary corrective to the hollow banalities of arena rock. Extraordinary Times is peak Big James, opening with elephantine drums like distant gunfire, warring with squalling guitars. Then Booth bursts in, sweaty and slightly terrifying, to announce: “I want to fuck you, until we break through, into other dimensions.”

Yet when James strip it all back on the delicate ballad Backwards Glances, or the sleekly seductive demo Moving Car, you’ll forgive them anything. Remarkably, this 15th album might be their best.

Watch the video for Coming Home (Pt 2) by James.


Damien Morris

The GuardianTramp

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