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Jamie T exceeds himself on the scrappy yet mature The Theory of Whatever

"The Theory of Whatever"

Release date: 22 July 2022
9/10
Jamie t the theory art
21 July 2022, 08:30 Written by Ims Taylor
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Announced unceremoniously in a front-camera video of Jamie T walking through London – the same one which feels like the secondary character in much of his music – The Theory of Whatever comes as the indie turn-of-the-decade legend’s first in seven years

Unpretentious has always been the way to characterise Jamie Treays as an artist and as a performer, but The Theory of Whatever does a stellar job of reminding us that as no-fuss as he is, he’s still an artist and at the absolute core of it all, a storyteller. And the Theory of Whatever feels like one of the first times he’s really told his own story rather than turning the pen to abstract narratives.

In seven years of no new Jamie T – but numerous nights spent in grubby indie bars and clubs – it’s been very easy to forget that "Sheila" is a strikingly written series of painstaking vignettes and not just five minutes of time you spend trying not to get groped or have a pint spilled down you. The Theory of Whatever packs less rapidfire bangers than earlier records (though they’re definitely present) which means that the lyrical prowess shines through, lending greater weight to the tales within. Opener “90s Cars” is a restrained, yearning ode to a missed love told in snippets of images, a selection of appetisers for the songs to come.

The ballads, for the most part, feel more private. None of them quite reach the sprawling emotive heights of the likes of “Sign of the Times” or more recent deep cut “The Likeness of Being”, but that’s because they don’t need to howl their desolation to the wind. Treays packs equal depth into a sound a little more relaxed: “St George Wharf Tower” is a melancholic whip-round of London scenes that manages to feel quietly optimistic, “Talk Is Cheap” is an absolute “Back In The Game”-esque acoustic-guitar outpouring, but Treays’s delivery is almost comforting in its familiarity (though no doubt this one will hit its emotional heights in the live setting). The peaks and dips of The Theory of Whatever are a little less gloriously rough around the edges, but they’ve far from lost their effect.

And yes, there is fresh mosh-pit bait here, raw and rough and ready to go. “Between The Rocks” feels like fan-service in the most brilliant way, quick-witted lyrics spit straight out of 2009 alongside riffs ready to jump into, followed swiftly by “Sabre Tooth” which unlike many of Treays’ best feels more fit for an arena than a sweaty basement, the swooning rock production perhaps the biggest sonic maturing we hear on the record. Conversely, “A Million & One New Ways To Die” sounds like a delightful ode to the landfill indie (read that term as one of endearment) his career began alongside with a Libertines-y riff and a Strokes-y chorus.

There’s no one elusive quality that makes The Theory of Whatever such a great listen. It’s a combo of every feeling it elicits, be it excitement, nostalgia; and – the real challenge for artists with such a fierce distinctiveness, and for artists as beloved as Jamie T – the clear absence of disappointment. Treays has outdone himself by biding his time and doing what he always does – injecting his music with a slightly abstract but absolutely authentic sense of himself.

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