Jamie T is one of Britain’s most loved and highly thought of solo artists and at just 30 years of age, has already established himself as a top level performer with his unique lyrics which are made relatable to the ‘broken youth’ of today. He burst onto the scene in 2007 with his debut album ‘Panic Prevention’ which boasted the quite remarkable hit ‘Sheila’, a song which has stood the test of time as one of the best of his generation. A follow up album soon followed in ‘Kings & Queens’ which was arguably his best work. He then went on hiatus and made a stunning return in 2014 with smash hit track ‘Zombie’ which prompted the return of his third studio album ‘Carry On The Grudge’. It was a triumphant return which made the youth fall in love with the South London singer all over again and now he’s back once more to deliver for his fans. Will we see his usual cheeky yet heartfelt take on his upbringing here or will it be a dip in form? Let’s find out as I review Jamie T’s ‘Trick’.
Tinfoil Boy – 4/10
Bitterly disappointed with this track from the moment it was released. This isn’t the Jamie T we know and love at all, this has the sound of a Slaves B-side and they’re a completely different entity to Jamie T. They don’t try to be lyrical and relatable, they’re there to be energetic and make noise, so if this is the tone he’s going down I’m really not going to like it, not one bit. The chorus is unoriginal and just unnecessarily shouty and noisy, it’s a real irritant to listen to. I mean at least it starts off with a bit of meaning, the build up is confident and dark in the verse but it’s just the outburst which I don’t get, it makes no sense. Anyway I’ll stop ranting about this because I’ve used up too much energy thinking about it. Poor start, onto the next one.
Drone Strike – 7/10
This is more like it! The audio clip at the start is cool and sets a decent tone to the whole song, I also absolutely love the beat in the verse; it’s electronic, fast paced and energetic. We all knew Jamie T could rap quite well given tracks like Chaka Demus and Sticks & Stones but this is great in the verse, talking about being dragged off the pavement after drunken nights out like a classic Jamie T song. I’m not huge on the chorus though, it’s much like Tinfoil Boy in the way that it’s far too simple for me, it’s just a load of noise and repetition of the same thing, it can drain you at times. Unlike the previous song, however, you actually get the feeling that he’s meaning something by not only saying “watch out for the drones” but also in the way he delivers it. His vocal is being attacked by an electronic sounding autotune and that’s clever in that these “drones” are sucking the life out of everyone, including him. That is why he’s telling people to watch out for them. Very clever indeed. This is a far better song with a far better and more concise piece of context, well done Jamie.
Power Over Men – 8/10
Such a groovy song with a vintage Jamie T flavour. A real prophet’s tale of the modern domineering woman who has complete “power over men” in every regard. He mentions her “tattoos” and how he spots her at “the bar” as he completes this stereotype of the archetypical powerful woman and I like that as it shows a bit of intimidation on the part of Jamie T and he delivers it in such a way which makes you feel his fear which is a great skill to have. The song itself as I said before is groovy and impossible not to move along to in some way, whether it be tapping toes or swaying heads. The guitar playing is strong and poignant and in the chorus it adds a dark and mysterious tone to the song and thus to the woman in question. It’s a slightly unoriginal chorus once again, however as he persists with repeating the same line again but because the instrumental is so cool I’ll let him off this time. Really decent song this, we are getting closer to that old school Jamie T we grew to love.
Tescoland – 8/10
In a song called ‘Tescoland’ are we really surprised that the start is a customer announcement? And are we really surprised that, given its a Jamie T song, this announcement is regarding a suicide of some sort? No? Okay then let’s get on with the song. Despite the wacky beginning this song really kicks into gear from the off a strong bass riff and bouncy beat twinned with a great verse from Jamie himself who transitions into the chorus so smoothly as if there was no change at all. I do really like the lyrics on this song, particularly in the chorus where he states that Americans will never understand our youth culture of “walking through Tescoland” and it’s such a relatable lyric for young people all over the country. The guitar riff is so funky and cool it sounds like a Kings & Queens cut which I’m really happy about as it shows a real possibility of a return to form. It’s a really cool song and brings back the best aspects of Jamie T as an artist, clever lyricism with such a British feel to it.
Police Tapes – 7/10
Bit of a darker song this one as Jamie sounds a bit angrier over a grimey bass riff and sings/raps about getting into trouble on the streets of London while growing up, saying that “I never felt so low”. The message within the song really touches on important issues from all over the globe, such as racial discrimination, political corruption and the untrustworthiness of the media and it really does have the sound of a public service announcement or a rant in some places. Like as a song, it’s not brilliant but I’m 99% sure that’s not the intention Jamie was going for here, I feel pretty confident that the purpose of this song is to send a message and allow the youth to speak up about global issues, which is something he’s been strongly linked with his whole musical career so it’s admirable to see him stick to his roots in that regard. It’s getting a 7/10 for the sheer power of it alone, as a song it doesn’t really do it for me as it gets repetitive at the worst of times but due to the message and meaning it deserves a lot of credit.
Dragon Bones – 7.5/10
Bouncy track with a different style of Jamie T to what we are usually used to as he uses a bit more melody in the chorus and raises his pitch in the verse. This is done to match the distinct backing track which is obscure and almost squeaky at times but I do really like it as it’s unique and unlike anything we have heard from him in a long time. Lyrically the chorus is quite bleak and upsetting as he talks about turning a gun on himself which doesn’t really match this distorted yet upbeat instrumental. It’s a distressing love song about how he is need of guidance from the person he loves because he’s falling apart a bit and having suicidal tendencies, it could be a track involved with drug and alcohol abuse as he talks about being “dragged home” and being “50000 feet up in the clouds” perhaps in reference to being intoxicated by hallucinogenics. It’s a trippy anthem but a good one, another great tale told by Jamie in a way which unravels stories about his past.
Joan Of Arc – 9/10
I love this song, really smooth guitar riff with a harmonic backing vocal which supports the catchy tune and lyrics. A real contender for the best song on the album with its bouncy and swaying instrumental as well as the tale being told within the lyrics. It’s another love tale of lust, passion but also deep romance and the notion of forgiving and forgetting. I really like how the song progresses from start to finish as though it’s a period of growing up over time and becoming more appreciative of this girl and understanding what she wants. “Those three kind words she’d never heard said” of course implying that she was used a lot for sexual purposes as opposed to being told that someone does love her and so there’s this level of sympathy for “Joan of Arc” in this scenario and that’s what Jamie is trying to put across, she isn’t at fault for anything, she’s just a girl who makes mistakes along her road of love. It’s a really nice, progressive song which gets better every time you listen to it.
Solomon Eagle – 8/10
Underground drum beat with echoed vocals at the start of the song before moving into a grimier rap in which he speaks about police brutality and the treatment of the youth on the streets of London. I would usually be annoyed by a chorus like this because there are moments you really struggle to hear what he’s saying but I think it suits the whole basis of the song and makes the atmosphere of it that bit more dark and mysterious, much like the young gang culture of London today. An absolutely brilliant hard-hitting insight into what goes on deep inside that mob mentality, relating the “Solomon Eagle” to this overseer of what is going on and something that will judge you based on your actions. I really like the lyrics in the chorus they are fantastically clever and thought provoking in that they leave you questioning all you have ever learnt religiously. Jamie T states that “retribution comes from above” and says that it’s not Satan who brings out this violence and rebellious attitude. It’s just so layered and has so many deep avenues within it and as far as Jamie T songs go, it’s right up there with some of the most challenging yet mesmerising concepts to date. Again, however as a song it lacks something and I can’t really describe what it is, there’s just not a musical spark to push it over the line to near perfection but it’s still great.
Robin Hood – 8.5/10
A complete change of mood and scenery here with a guitar riff which wouldn’t go amiss on a cheesy 2000s children’s sitcom. It’s a tale all about youth and how fickle and simple it was for us when we were younger but there was always people who strived for different things. Some want to be rappers, but as Jamie describes this particular boy he mentions how he wants to be “like Robin Hood” behind a funky and catchy beat. I like how it does have the aspect of the simpler things in life when we were all younger but it also has that ability to change up and be about the brilliance of everyone’s brain and their dreams. The song turns quite aggressive towards the end as Jamie sings in the bridge about this girl he calls Sally and her mum having a conversation about the boy, Johnny, who wanted to be Robin Hood. It’s a typical mother/daughter romance chat until it’s described as “everybody loves a bank robber” and that is repeated a few times right before an explosion of energy to bring the song to a close. It completely changes the dynamic of the song and instead shows off Johnny as a troubled soul rather than one that’d been set free. Clever song which leaves you hooked right until the end, and this time there’s an actual catchy element to it so I can rate it as an actual song. Great track.
Sign Of The Times – 8.5/10
Slow ballad sound but with a thrashing and raw electric guitar providing the backing track and that uncut aspect of it is something I really enjoy as it gives us a sense of being there involved with the song it’s great. A deflating tone on the song, particularly in the second verse area where Jamie repeats “I’m not enough” when talking about this relationship he was in. There really is a fragility to Jamie here as he pours out his feelings about how he was made to feel and the lessons he has learned from this relationship, describing this girl as “a sign of the times” perhaps to avoid people like her in the future. Even with that there is still a lingering feeling of want and desire as he sings about wishing he had acted differently when in the relationship when really it wasn’t him at fault. It’s as tender as a song with a huge electric guitar in the background can be but the lyrics really bring you down to earth and make you realise it’s not all that great. A lovely song which was stripped back and kept simple, I for one am very grateful for that as we got to hear a more emotional side to Jamie T.
Crossfire Love – 8.5/10
This is another one which sounds like more of an emotional ballad and even when he does break into a rap it’s still full of heartfelt lyrics and self deprivation. As his words get quicker it seems he gets sadder and sadder, more and more stressed with every breath and with that comes more emotional lyrics and seemingly more things going wrong with his life as a result. Lyrics about his mum falling ill alongside having relationship problems show Jamie off as having a borderline mental breakdown in the middle of the song as he rushes to sing his song and tell us all the problems he has. It’s really distressing and gives out a huge amount of empathy of behalf of the listener. I really like the chorus of this song as he uses the fairly childish onomatopoeia of “crash, bang, wallop” as a metaphor of his current mental state and life situation as everything seems to crumble around him. It’s also perhaps an apology to this girl as he says that the reason he may act out of line is because of all of these acts, hence why she is “caught in the crossfire.” Another passionate song which shows a real fragility to Jamie’s personality, but certainly not as a songwriter, fantastic stuff.
Self Esteem – 7/10
Another album, another longest song being put at the end, I’m telling you all my conspiracy is coming into play. Anyway enough of that, this song is the weakest and lowest point we have ever seen Jamie T as he sings shyly and with a fragile tone over a crackled acoustic guitar and a mysterious bass build up. It’s him finally accepting his fate almost and as the song suggests, his “self esteem” has hit the ground. The whole song is distorted and crumbly and it’s a direct representation of how he feels at that moment of writing it. I hate to keep referring to this album on my reviews but I have to here, it’s like if Kid Cudi’s ‘Speedin Bullet 2 Heaven’ was good, this is what it’d sound like, and even then that’s not great, like I do tire of this dog quite easily but given its placement in the context of the album I completely get it. A swift conversation with his thoughts at the latter stages of the song make for bizarre but emotional listening and round off the song quite well. Strange song for a strange mindset, gave to us exactly what he was trying to portray, but that doesn’t make it a fantastic song.
Overall – 8/10
It’s a great album this, Tinfoil Boy is the rare low point of an otherwise moody and relatable approach to relationships, death, crime and punishment. I love how the album unraveled itself from an explosive start of energy and almost pride in himself to this crumbled figure we hear at the end, it’s his own documentation of the rise and fall of his private life. Compared to his other albums? There are some songs on here which sound like true Jamie T classics but there are also cuts that are fresh and original, the main thing that stands out with this album is the way it maps itself out and becomes almost like a motion picture with the finale, it’s stunning in a way. For me, it’s great and he should be really proud of it, but a bit of my heart will never shift away from those first two albums and this doesn’t change that opinion. Still an absolutely stellar job though and I’d recommend the album to most.