As the band’s album title states, we are ‘Living in Extraordinary Times,’ indeed. Album opener ‘Hank’ addresses US president Donald Trump directly. Calling him the “White fascist in the White House,” in a politically charged opener. Unfortunately, Tim Booth’s voice scrambler makes lyrics hard to decipher and ruins an otherwise interesting multiply-layered track. Booth’s falsetto at the end hardly improves things.
‘Coming Home (Part 2)’ may not live up to the classic 1989 original, but it makes for a decent companion piece. Booth gets personal about the impact touring can have on a family left at home. It’s big and brash and very James.
‘Leviathan’ continues in a similar vein with a vibe straight out of the 90’s indie charts; charts that James, of course dominated. “Fuckin’ love, before they drop the bomb, be sure we get enough,” urges a Californian dwelling Booth. He’s fearful for the future of the planet as the madness goes on around him.
Maybe this madness has inspired the band, because there seems to have been a desire to throw in everything including the kitchen sink into the making of this album.
The chaotic percussion of ‘Heads,’ just turns into a racket and so too does ‘Picture Of This Place.’ This is despite it starting off sounding like the Stone Roses playing Nintendo.
The title track meanwhile sees the band lifting riffs from The Smiths’ How Soon Is Now and Oasis’ Champagne Supernova. Bands that are James’ contemporaries and proteges.
And there’s the dilemma. Do they rely on old tricks, or try to reinvent the wheel? There’s a little too much of the latter for this album to truly work. Additionally Booth’s insistence on falsetto truly threatens to send it crashing into the bargain bins of a future that he is so rightfully fearful of.
That said, ‘Many Faces,’ is a highlight. A folksy intro brings a welcome respite and restraint from the over-the-top-production of the tracks that preceded it. It builds and evolves beautifully into a unifying sing along that’s up there with their best.