Jamie T retains a gravitas that few of his peers can match. Forget social media driven nostalgia trends like ‘indie sleaze’, this Wimbledon bard’s wonky teeth speak only the truth – and that gives his discography, slim though it may be, an added edge. His first new album in six years, ‘The Theory Of Whatever’ is burdened by memories of the past, by the formative experiences of those searing gigs, and vital concerts. The question of matching up to gilded reminiscence is a tough one to answer. In truth? This new album does reach those heights, but only sporadically.
Opener ‘90’s Cars’ expertly plays with nostalgic expectations, looking back on his own childhood, and memories lost. The biting, Joe Strummer-esque vocal reeks of hard-won experience, while the looping melody recalls Alex Chilton’s ‘Kinga Roo’. A subtle opener, Jamie T then segues into a prime rabble-rouser; all choppy guitars and snappy vocals, ‘The Old Style Raiders’ is worth aligning alongside those early anthems, yet the central voice has grown a little older, if not any wiser.
‘British Hell’ and ‘The Terror Of Lambeth’ are matched against one another, two tracks that slice into the seedy underbelly of 2k22 UK life. The sloping reggae feel to ‘British Hell’ contrasts with the ballad feel of ‘The Terror Of Lambeth’, a sign of his breadth, and his refusal to be hemmed in.
The album then hits a sticky patch across its middle arc. ‘Keying Lambourghinis’ lacks focus, while the less said about the shaky Libertines-esque ‘A Million & One New Ways To Die’ the better. That said, rollicking highlights such as ‘Between The Rocks’ – “no kidding, what a way to make a living” – put the record back on track, flowing into arena-level indie puncher ‘Sabre Tooth’ and the orchestral operatics of ‘Old Republican’.
Indeed, for a record that feels so focussed, so tight, there’s an ample amount of experimentation on show. Sure, Jamie T delivers those mosh-pit thrills, but he’s also able to conjure the fragmented introspection of ‘Talk Is Cheap’, for example, with its Bert Jansch acoustic flourishes.
Closing with piano laden singalong ’50,000 Unmarked Bullets’ this isn’t an album that rests on its laurels. The sound of a songwriter tapping into his core values, ‘The Theory Of Whatever’ contains ample fan service, and some typically floral word play; he also takes time to reveal something new, though, with Jamie T often at his most engaging when stepping aside from his past. Not revelatory, then, but there’s enough on ‘The Theory Of Whatever’ to underline Jamie T’s status as a vital force within British music.
Words: Robin Murray
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