It’s strange to think that Jamie T, south London’s wayward punk prince, a British Beastie Boy with a dog-eared copy of Betjeman’s collected works in his backpack, is now 30 years old. When he first emerged from a Wimbledon skate park as a bleary-eyed teen, his music was the embodiment of urban youthfulness: all boozing in the park, crushes on your mates’ girlfriends and sneaky spliffs on the train platform. Sure, he’s by no means old now, but Jamie is officially a proper adult – the kind of person that Sheila and her gang of underage drinkers would probably gob at in the street.
Yet unlike artists of a similar age who’ve grown up in the limelight, such as Alex Turner and Lily Allen, Jamie T’s five-year absence until 2014’s ‘Carry On The Grudge’ means there’s still a certain mystery that goes alongside his maturity. ‘Trick’, his fourth album, plays on this inscrutability with the kind of laid-back charm that made us fall in love with debut ‘Panic Prevention’ almost a decade ago.
To wit, opener ‘Tinfoil Boy’ is perhaps the heaviest thing Jamie’s ever done, referencing the brutality of Rage Against The Machine as Jamie ponders the futility of life: “It’s times like this I feel tricked into waking up,” he muses. F**k, has Jamie finally cracked? Not quite. There’s rawness here, certainly, which also seeps through the doomy disco of ‘Solomon Eagle’ – a tribute to a sinister 17th century street prophet – and ‘Police Tapes’ is brilliantly aggy, yet his pop sparkle is hard to suppress for long. ‘Joan Of Arc’ makes for a singalong of ‘Zombie’ proportions and glibly references Jamie’s own ageing process (“Funny how you never give a f**k when you’re 20”); there are numerous nods to the perkier side of The Clash, with the insanely fun ‘Robin Hood’ essentially a full-on tribute to his idols Mick Jones and Joe Strummer c. 1980; and the riffed-up reggae of ‘Tescoland’ is worthy of a sneaky place on ‘Combat Rock’.
The full, colourful spectrum of Jamie is on show here, as broad as it’s ever been, with his balladry muscle flexed on the emotive ‘Sign Of The Times’. A plaintive tribute to his twenties, on it he sings “I wish I’d been a little more exceptional”. Worry not, Jamie – you always were and definitely still are.