Jamie T – ‘Carry On The Grudge’

After five years away, the Wimbledon singer is sucked into London's murky underworld on his enthralling third album

In 2007, Jamie Treays’ debut album ‘Panic Prevention’ positioned him as a gap-toothed, sparkle-eyed street poet. He was an exuberant commentator and caricaturist, skipping around the edges of the London low-life to paint vivid portraits on tracks like ‘Sheila’ and ‘Calm Down Dearest’. Follow up ‘Kings & Queens’ offered more of the same two years later, with ‘Sticks ‘n’ Stones’ and ‘368’. On his long-awaited third album ‘Carry On The Grudge’, though, it appears that the 28-year-old has been sucked into the long, dark night that fascinated him so much, and come out broken, reduced to one of the shallow street wrecks he’d so tantalisingly sketched.

As yet the issues that have kept the Wimbledon singer out of the studio and the limelight for so long are unspoken, but ‘Carry On The Grudge’ is a record of obsession, desolation and psychological damage, full of hints of narcotic and emotional ruin. “I’m running, catching up girl… I’m straight to the vein/You fall through the floors and you take it all… keep breathing, stay with me”, he croaks on the opening ‘Limits Lie’, a post-country storm that swells and overwhelms like the overdose it seems to describe. ‘Turn On The Light’ is an itchy pop song about a girlfriend struggling with life and art (a “good looking corpse hanging on to me tightly” who “proof reads a story/Kills all the characters and crosses out the heroine”). Yet it’s also crammed with images of Treays’ own decay: “I’m sweating in a carcass, I’ve given up on me”, “I’m carrying my casket… I’m sick to my bones”, “I still hear demons breathing”. Likewise, the sparse ‘The Prophet’ is a character portrait of some poverty-stricken addict being thrown onto the streets. Delivered with a bitter snarl, Treays’ voice is slurred and scarred, qualifying his heroine’s most degenerate behaviour with a flippant “It can’t be any worse than what I’ve been up to”.

Even when he’s in jubilant mode on ‘Zombie’ – an homage to his beloved Clash – he’s a self-declared mess: “I got bloodshot eyes and there’s blood in my teeth… walking like a zombie”. And then there’s ‘Peter’. His most aggressive, dark and bluesy track yet; it takes the self-destructive voice in his head and turns it into a hateful alter-ego. “Peter doesn’t like my friends”, he bawls over sordid grunge guitars, “Peter doesn’t like your band/Peter says you’re all so bland/Peter wants to fuck your girl”. Treays uses his evil twin to attack but ultimately it’s the sound of Treays himself being hacked away from the inside.

Thankfully though, his songwriting emerges unscathed from all this emotional damage. Rougher than ‘Kings & Queens’, and with less rap and nothing quite as electrifying as ‘Sticks ‘n’ Stones’, it’s nonetheless consistently enthralling, veering from yob pop on ‘Rabbit Hole’ to down-tempo introspection on reggae-tinged comeback single ‘Don’t You Find’ and ‘Love Is Only A Heartbeat Away’. He tackles blues balladry (‘Mary Lee’), luscious alt.country (‘Murder Of Crows’) and electro-gospel (gorgeous closer ‘They Told Me It Rained’) with aplomb too. The only real misstep is ska funk oddity ‘Trouble’; otherwise, ‘Carry On The Grudge’ is an inspired modern breakdown album in the vein of such cathartic classics as the Manic Street Preachers’ ‘The Holy Bible’. It’s London low-life viewed from the other end of the telescope, and the view is dejected but divine.