Image credit: Will Robson-Scott
When Jamie T made his return to the music scene earlier this year with opening single The Old Style Raiders, one thought prevailed, this man still has it. From the opening chords to the last note, it was a comeback single that others could only dream of.
Long hiatuses between albums is not a new commodity for Jamie T (Jamie Treays), it was a five year gap between albums two, and three. Now, six years on from his last album, 2016’s middle-of-the-road Trick, Treays returns in full force with The Theory of Whatever.
For most artists Trick would have been a standout piece, for Treays in hindsight it feels like his weakest entry. An album full of songs that his trademark passion was largely missing on, it leaned closer to contractual obligation, rather than dream occupation. His final album under Virgin Records, a record deal that in his own words “he signed at 19 years old, and had been bound to ever since.” If hindsight sees 20/20 then perhaps Treays knows it as well, with only one song off the album being played at his two comeback shows earlier this year.
Combine the long gaps with Treays' reluctance to use social media, as well as his most recent release being 2018’s B Sides compilation album, and fans of the Wimbledon native would be forgiven for thinking a full album release might never happen again.
“I tend to stay off the internet, because I don’t think it’s very good for my mental health,” Treays told Radio X earlier this year. “I’ve realised that now I’m not really on social media as much, I’m a lot happier. I still make clips, but I have an intermediate person who runs it because I feel it’s better to not be on it for me personally.”
Take it all into consideration, and where do we find ourselves with Jamie T? Sitting on 180 songs that he wrote between the release of Trick, and the finalising of The Theory of Whatever, we are now left with a 13-song masterpiece. Released by Polydor Records, and produced alongside close friend Hugo White of The Maccabees fame, it is Jamie T at his all-guns blazing best, delivering an album that is once again unapologetically him.
Across the 13 tracks, there are signs of the old school 100-miles-an-hour pace he had on singles from years gone by. Old Style Raiders, A Million & One New Ways To Die, and Between The Rocks all demonstrate that indie-rock, with a hint of punk style he had on previous albums.
The best of Trick’s experimentation is replicated, with songs like ‘Keying Lamborghinis’ showing there is more to Treays’ work than just a guitar and a backing band. Meanwhile, the near anthemic territory is touched upon once again on several tracks, with more than one emotional near-ballad welcome across the 13 songs.
It’s full of sarcasm, wit, lyrics that will slip into indie kids Twitter bios, and everything in between that you might expect from a Jamie T album. There is not a lull, not a moment the quality slips. Not once. It’s 13 songs of unstoppable indie-rock excellence. We’re all getting older, some of us might even be losing a step or two. But not Jamie T, deep into his 30s, he has instead aged like fine wine.
“I don’t give a flying f*ck anymore. So thank you for coming to see us, but it really makes no difference to my life, couldn’t give a f*ck. I’d play to an empty room.” Treays shouted out just before he closed his Glastonbury set this year. That attitude seeps through into the album. As the lyrics of Old Style Raiders might suggest, it’s all about finding something to truly love, something to fight for. Times have changed, he’s here to look for what inspires him, not just to be an inspiration.
As a description, this might sound cynical, but in practice it’s far from it. For fans of Jamie T his extended hiatus may have been long, but for Treays it would have felt like a lifetime. Struggling to produce something he wanted his name on, with those around him telling him to go in a million different directions, this is a clean slate. Still grateful for those that have come to see him, and if the amount of sold-out dates on his upcoming tour is any indication, will continue to come to see him, but this one is for him.
As far as albums go, the artist behind it might have been born Jamie Treays, but The Theory of Whatever is undeniably Jamie T. The voice has changed a bit, but he’s back in style. Perfectly crafted from start to finish, it stands on an equal pedestal to his previous works.
The Theory of Whatever feels different, he’s not the 18-year-old kid sitting on his bedroom floor, scribbling out lyrics, surrounded by little more than his guitar, the albums of his heroes, and his inner thoughts like he was on 2007’s Panic Prevention. No longer the 10 a day, little s*it he was on 2009’s Kings and Queens. He’s not still a ‘sad, sad post-teen, walking like a zombie’ like he was on 2014’s Carry On The Grudge. He’s certainly not someone releasing an album that feels forced like he arguably did in 2016 with Trick. No, on The Theory of Whatever he’s none of these things. He’s just a bloke, with his mates, releasing an album that they would like to listen to. He’s Jamie ‘F*ckin’ T.
The Theory Of Whatever is out tomorrow, July 22nd, via Polydor and is available on white vinyl here.