There’s probably nobody I would rather listen to and simultaneously try to avoid at a bar than Jamie T. The Wimbledon-born raggamuffin has been tearing up sensitive airwaves ever since he signed with Virgin as a young teenager, and taking his debut Panic Prevention for a spin the other day, I was more than pleased to note that it hadn’t aged one bit. A slapdash collection of slang, samples and torch songs to sing while drunk, Jamie T’s debut is what being young and free is all about when you’re surrounded by cement and your primary goal for the weekend is to get hold of something illegally. Despite this, it’s actually very layered lyrically and comes from an undeniably romantic place, which is precisely why it has stood the test of time (Panic was released in 2007.) For some reason, it was just before this record came out that when I seemed to be involved in a lot of street team and flyering work and had this strange, Lindsay Lohan-esque obsession for hoarding stickers and posters of bands I didn’t even like that much. There are Jamie T stickers all over my house, first year Uni law books and even one on the inside door of my car. I have this single as a 7″, too, even though it’s my parents who own the record player. Thus I knew Jamie T before I actually knew him, which is always nice when your perception of an artist and the reality are the same but not as much when they turn out to be completely fucking different. But when you’re stupid and young and trying to kill yourself in any way possible, hearing someone idealise that in song is pretty much the best thing ever. I don’t think Jamie ever really wrote about the high times, though. He was always better at capturing the residual effect, the afterglow and the unattractive comedown.
Jamie Treays is not the next Dylan but he is a great story-teller, perhaps on of the best outside of Alex Turner or Conor Oberst I’ve heard since I finished highschool. It’s these pictures he paints of the downcast and the hard up on luck which make him worth a second investment from One A Day. It helps, of course, that lead single ‘If You Got The Money’ is such a gorgeous song. You can literally imagine a boy and girl tottering over London Bridge fences on a warm summer’s night as they try to walk without falling, bottle in hand, carefree as anything. I always imagined that the groove hear was borrowed from something Jamaican or Carribean, which is why it came as no surprise to find out that there was an interpolation of classic alt-reggae tune ‘Sweat (A La La La La Long)‘ by Inner Circle in there. If ever there was a melting pot (or, as of last summer, a fiery cauldron) of ethnic influences, it was the UK. Jamie’s reggae-infused tale has a sweet theme and a good heart; a boy too broke to ask a girl out asks his friend (and her boyfriend) to do it instead so that the next day he can court her without having worry about money. If that’s not the essence of being seventeen, I don’t know what is:
“If you got the money/I think it would be funny/To take your girl spend a bit of your cash for me/then she might be happy/No longer lonely o-oh-oh/And I could take her out the next day for pretty much free.”
Cheeky bastard. But perhaps my favourite part of Jamie T’s performance, and indeed what garners him comparisons to the likes of Turner is the way he plays around with how we understand a pop song. He’s a rambling Jack Kerouac sort of character who’s just as likely to bust into scatting as he is to finish a line, summon a group of lads for a shout chorus or stop halfway through a line. It’s this unpredictability, matched with simple yet easily mood-manipulated skin and bones rock that puts Treays miles in front of the rest. He’s not polished around the edges, but anybody else who can get a Gallipoli reference and the line ‘Momma still wants you home for supper’ into a pop ditty and come out alive on the other end deserves not only respect but admiration. He hasn’t put out a record in three years, but I’ll be the first one to get it when he does.
(If I’ve got the money, of course.)
Jamie T – ‘If You Got The Money’