James' "Living in Extraordinary Times."

James' "Living in Extraordinary Times." Credit: Infectious/BMG Records


"Living in Extraordinary Times"

BOTTOM LINE Turning political anger into inspiration.

With its 15th album, “Living in Extraordinary Times” (Infectious/BMG), James seems ready to launch a fiery chapter in its already storied career.

Formed in 1982, contemporaries in the Manchester scene with The Smiths, James started as indie rockers, rode the alt-rock wave of the early ’90s with hits “Sit Down” and “Laid” and have now found a rhythm-heavy sound to go with the protests of singer Tim Booth.

“White fascists in the White House,” Booth sings in the angry single “Hank,” which packs layer upon layer of drums to pound the lyrics home. Later, he complains, “NRA high-fives — Orlando, Sandy Hook and Columbine.”

However, James is more effective at uniting people than pointing out the growing divisions. The jangling “Many Faces” is an upbeat, folkie singalong, throwing in jokes, like “Your god is just calamari,” before transitioning to a unifying chant of “There’s only one human race. Many faces, everybody belongs here” that builds to a triumphant close.

What makes “Extraordinary Times” so, well, extraordinary, though are the shifting rhythms and the electronic highs the band constructs with producer Charlie Andrew. They make James sound as potent as a band just coming out of its garage.

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