And the wait is finally over: it’s been five long years since Jamie T’s last album, 2009’s ‘Kings And Queens’, but now we’ve finally heard the follow-up. So what’s the verdict on ‘Carry On The Grudge’? Was it worth the half-decade wait? Is Jamie as smart and razor-sharp as ever? Read below to find out…
A slow burning start, ‘Limits Lie’ gently eases the listener into the album. The lyrics however are far weightier than the track’s ultra relaxed, stoned reggae bounce and easy-going falsetto backing vocals. “It’s flooding over you now/keep your chin up/I’m a hurricane,” drawls Jamie, comparing serious emotional states to a range of natural disasters and bastardly weather. The song that Jamie opened his recent comeback shows with, two thirds of the way in it lifts into a mega sing-along, with Jamie rapping about a “lump in the throat/too hard to swallow”.
‘Don’t You Find’
The first teaser track from the album, you’ve no doubt already heard ‘Don’t You Find’. If you haven’t, then stop reading this immediately and only come back when you have. Even more languid than ‘Limits Lie’, there’s a bleak intensity to this four-minute marvel that makes you want to give Jamie a darn big cuddle as he moans of a love lost over soul-searching beats and glitching, computerised orchestration, raging “There’s so much pain here” on the fade-out.
‘Turn On The Light’
Lyrically, Jamie’s still on a particularly bleak tip. Talk of a “good looking corpse” and saying “I wish I’d never been born” over pulsing, skittering beats, ‘Turn On The Light’ is a comparatively stripped back track, with multi-tracked lyrics running over a pretty basic guitar, drums and what we’re pretty sure if the coy plink of a xylophone. The chorus however, shifts into a major key and we get pretty, sweetly sung vocals, even though Jamie’s now going on about friends betraying each other and carrying his own casket. Heavy stuff.
Worried that Jamie had forsaken his ska-indebted indie disco past in favour of some serious darkness and sonic moping? Worry no more. ‘Zombie’ is an outright dancefloor banger with a cheeky acoustic red herring of an intro. A dumb, fun, Saturday night skanker, it plugs into the same gleeful groove as ‘Chaka Demus’ and ‘If You Got The Money’, and comes complete with haunted house ‘bwa ha ha’s’ and a dangerously infectious rhythm that proves the old Jamie T is living far closer to the new one that previously thought.
After all that excitement, we need a bit of a breather. ‘The Prophet’ is just that, a bendy, shape-shifting ballad of sorts, that sees Jamie setting his own world to rights, “Coca-Cola communists” and all, over lazily strummed guitar. “It can’t any worse that what I’ve been up to,” he semi-snarls, either in flirting or fighting mode, we’re not quite sure. An airy, spacious track, it’s a moody bigger brother to ‘Calm Down Dearest’, and one that manages to pull itself out of an emotional rut with a starry shot of redemption.
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Far folksier than the previous tracks, ‘Mary Lee’ kicks off with what sounds suspiciously like the haunted peal of a hurdy gurdy. If the voice wasn’t quite so gruff, the first 30 seconds could be mistaken for a lost Richard Thompson track, with a strong trad influence at play before the song swings into a contemplative ode to a former lover. Lyrically it sees him returning to “new Bond Street”, buying a suit from the same road that he worked in a shop on in ‘368’ from 2009’s ‘Kings & Queens’.
Featuring the bounce of The Specials, with ‘Trouble’ so begins the badass section of the album. Mean and clattering but underpinned by a spry 2-Tone stance, ‘shoop-shoop’ style female backing vocals also lend the track a definite chirpiness.
Up-tempo but with an undeniable edge, ‘Rabbit Hole’ is a furious, fast-flowing, hard-edged pop song. With the same rolling rhymes of ‘Sticks’n’Stones’, it features nods to Jamie’s former favoured themes; friendship and betrayal, but with a new twist, evidently coloured by the fact that Jamie’s now in his late 20s. “Still know you can call me whenever/I’m always ‘round town man/I’ll be ‘round forever,” he offers as a nod to the doubters who thought he’d never return.
Jamie T has made no secret of his love of US hardcore. Previously the closest he’d got to making his own version of the vicious brand of punk was with non-album single ‘Fire Fire’, but its never before disrupted the flow of his LPs. ‘Peter’ however is the heaviest album track Jamie’s ever made. A grizzly, jagged mini-biography of a guy who “wants to fuck your girl”, it sounds like Peter’s a bit of dick. Thankfully, such dickishness lends itself to one of the most powerful tracks here. “Peter doesn’t like this song,” growls Jamie, over razor riffs and cymbal crashes. Brutal.
‘Love Is Only A Heartbeat Away’
From the ultra-aggro to the sublime and tender, ‘Love Is Only A Heartbeat Away’ features an undulating string section and gently finger picked guitar. Jamie T was always a secret softie – see ‘Emily’s Heart’ – but here he makes his most open-hearted declaration of romance yet. The shortest song on the album, coming in at just two and half minutes, it’s sweet without being sugary and lush without the mush. “I always did leave when I should have stayed,” sings a hushed, remorseful Jamie.
‘Murder Of Crows’
“How can we love like this/Guess life is like a rollercoaster,” sings Jamie T like the shrug-step Ronan Keating, over woozy, late night beats. Hints of Burial and The xx are nestled within this twinkling yet achy ballad. Pulling back on fancy production it’s beautiful in its basic approach, letting Jamie’s increasingly intimate and tortured lyrics shine through.
‘They Told Me It Rained’
More evidence that the songwriter has moved away from the street politics of a pissed off youth about town towards a much more personal kind of storytelling, ‘They Told Me It Rained’ hosts a chorus that’s as big as it is sad. There’s also a lyrical nod towards the ‘heavy monster sound’ appropriated by Madness. It finishes with lightly picked acoustic guitar, layered with Jamie and an unknown female vocalist, heartbreakingly repeating: “Show me love/show me love”. A fitting finish to what is easily Jamie’s most emotive album.