Some people take immediate offence to Jamie T… hear him sing – all spittle-flecked excitement and cod-Jamaican pronunciation – and go “But he’s just a trustafarian from Wimbledon!”, like life might be more fun if all white kids from Wimbledon sung about tennis and shopping centres. Fact is, though, the best metropolitan records are part gutter reality, part romantic fantasy, and so it goes with ‘Panic Prevention’.
Like no other record since The Streets’ ‘Original Pirate Material’, it’s the sound of a pirate radio station you wish existed: a rag-bag of ska-punk, junk-shop hip-hop, DIY drum’n’bass and vocal interludes sequenced to flow like a mix-tape. On first listen, scrappy-sounding and instinctive, but 20 spins later, still pulling new tricks.
Jamie’s tools are few (thumbed acoustic bass, Casio keyboard, budget sampler) but with them, he crafts chaotic narratives startling in their vividity – all pavement punch-ups, spilt Smirnoff Ice and heaving nightclubs, populated by pissed-up schoolgirls and glowering ne’er-do-wells. Jamie is no angel – the predatory, poetic ‘Salvador’ finds him hunting the club for skirt like a panther on the prowl. But the secret heart of ‘Panic Prevention’ is its surprising moments of pathos: take ‘So Lonely Was The Ballad’, skilfully conjuring lump-in-throat nostalgia from the sight of “Girls singing on the bus/Fellas kicking up a fuss” to a shuffling hip-hop beat, or the immortal ‘Sheila’ – a penny dreadful tale of doomed alcoholics and addicts perishing on the banks of the Thames. Forget the accent: Jamie T is a genuine voice, the sort of untrained, maverick personality that doesn’t come along too often. Britain, you’re honoured to have him.