5 years ago in 2009 we were given the brilliant Kings and Queens. Widely critically approved and loved by many, the then 23 year old Jamie Treays caught us all by the ear with his sharp tongue, irresistible hooks and brash lyrics. Then, for an agonizingly long time, nothing.
Well now, thankfully, Jamie T is back. But is not the same guy who hurled Sticks and Stones at us all those years ago. 5 years is a long time for anyone, and 28 is very different to 23. This comes across in his latest release Carry on the Grudge, which seeps experience and contemplation from every verse, chorus and riff. Looking first at the album artwork, the image of a woman holding a baby sat atop a skewed and disheveled mattress, possible hinting to a loss of youth or innocence. With songs on the album being pretty broody and reminiscent, this theme stays evident, especially with the appearance of lyrics such as ‘I haven’t cracked a smile since 93’, seen on The Prophet.
Although some may be interested in the potential meaning of the cover artwork, the main concern of course is the music itself, and is it any good? Well, in short, yes! Before getting on with the nitty-gritty details of the album, let’s first establish that Carry on the Grudge is a triumphant return from Treays. It is defiant, heartfelt, as well as faintly nostalgic. All these elements make up a perfectly flowing album, that incorporates all the best of Jamie T’s fantastic talent, as well as showing that he isn't a one trick pony.
In contrast to the edgy bass and percussion based 368 that kicked off 2009’s Kings and Queens, 2014’s release leads with the softer impact of Limits Lie. Although the instrumentation of this song is soft and smooth, the lyrics are not. This sort of sets the tone from the off. Lines such as ‘remember me forever, I'm the weather, my tears are the rain, you’re drowning together, I hope you're happy, remember my name’ show the autobiographical nature of Treays' writing, along with the general brooding stance that this album takes. As a personal point, this is something I enjoy about Jamie T’s music. The fact that he writes about himself honestly makes him accessible and highly likeable, as he is freely throwing his emotions out there for the public to decipher. It’s brave, and greatly admirable.
However, Carry on the Grudge is not full of slower, mildly depressing songs. The Jamie T of old is in no way gone by any means. This side of his character comes hurtling back in songs such as Zombie and Rabbit Hole, both of which possessing the upbeat, enticing stream of consciousness that we saw through previous releases. Following directly after Rabbit Hole comes one of the most interesting and well-crafted songs of this album, Peter. Peter is essentially a song about Treays' inner critic, after he has often mentioned hearing critical voices inside his own head. Jamie T has given this critic voice in a brilliant song. It is aggressive, bare-knuckled, and brutally honest with a screaming chorus of ‘Peter don’t believe in love, Peter doesn't like this song… Peter wants to f*ck your girl, Peter wants to f*ck the world’ outing Treays' dark side with no care for consequence. This is what makes Peter such a good song. Really, Peter is portrayed as a bad person, and is clearly a side of himself that Jamie T isn't the biggest fan of, but is still willing to write about despite its obvious deep personal meaning.
As a complete album, Carry on the Grudge flows very well, varying marvellously between the old upbeat style, to the smoother more considered modern approach. In a recent interview with The Guardian, Treays told of how he wrote 180 songs before deciding on the measly 12 in comparison that have made it to release, showing that this addition to the catalogue is definitely not a quickly whipped together array of rubbish. Carry on the Grudge is in fact a wonderfully constructed and hauntingly personal album, that gives fans a whole new perspective on the brash, swift worded 21 year old from South London that first emerged in 2007. Unfortunately the shows at Alexandra Palace have sold out for both the 14th and 15th, so if you were planning to catch Jamie T there you’re out of luck. Hopefully he’ll be performing in London again soon, and I certainly hope that this is Jamie T returned for the foreseeable future. It’s good to have him back!