By the time I reached thirty-five years old I was pretty much a spent force.
I wasn’t an old man and I was still in good health but the idea that I had anything new to say or new ways to say the things I had already said was just ridiculous. The best I could hope for was new audiences for old stories. I had also officially given up on my dream of being a pop star…partly because I was now older than Jarvis Cocker had been when he finally “made it” but mainly because I couldn’t sing, write or play a musical instrument.
James are thirty-five years old this year.
“Jimone” was released in 1983…when I was ten years old.
Here we are in 2018 and we really are living in extraordinary times.
The internet has delivered a revolution that matches the Gutenberg print revolution…all human knowledge is at our finger tips.
On a global level fewer people than at any other time in human history have been lifted out of poverty.
Many diseases have been eradicated.
Despite global conflicts there has been no world war since the last one ended in 1945…the longest period of sustained peace since, well, forever.
But it isn’t those things that are extraordinary.
What is extraordinary are the things that are happening despite them.
Trolls lurk in the shadows of Twitter and BTL…armies of unpleasant people sit hunched over their keyboards waiting to spew bile over anyone and everyone who crosses their eyeline.
People across the developing world are starving.
Bombs are falling somewhere right now.
Then there are the big issues that dominate the political scene…neither of which I’m getting into here.
On this, their fifteenth, album James lock their sights on some of these darker elements in society and unleash a lyrical and musical assault on them. At times this is an aggressively political album and it can leave you thrilled at the boldness of what is being said and exhausted by the powerful sonic tsunami that carries those messages. Nowhere is this more obvious than in “Hank” and “Heads” with Trump and “fake news” taking a beating.
“There’s only love, that’s strong enough, to rescue us, from self-destruct…” is a line from “Many Faces” and it is another example of the fact that there is an undeniable spiritual quality lying at the heart of James. Christian rockers they are not. Preachers and preachy they are not. Instead there is a belief in love as a healing, and real, elemental force that could deliver us…from ourselves, from others and maybe from the darker parts of life. Nothing but love, right?
It’s impossible to pick one track from this collection as a favourite because, as with “La Petite Mort” and “Girl at the End of the World”, it is set of songs where each is the equal of the last and the next…but if I wanted to play one song to someone who didn’t know, or understand, why James are so important to me then it would be “Leviathan”. Tim sounds as strong and as fragile as he ever has, the band sound as fresh as their own daisy and my own heart beats as fast and slow as the song demands. It’s wonderful.
Once again with this band of brothers it is the refusal to stand still, to repeat or to trade on past glories that is most striking. This isn’t just a new album from James, this is a new James album from…yet another…new James.
“Living in Extraordinary Times” is out now and can be purchased from the bands online store in a variety of beautiful formats…