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21st July 2022

Album Review: Jamie T proposes ‘The Theory Of Whatever’

Jamie T’s new album ‘Theory of Whatever’ does not disappoint. The Mancunion reviews the indie king’s fifth album.
Album Review: Jamie T proposes ‘The Theory Of Whatever’
Photo: Jamie T ‘The Theory Of Whatever’ Official Album Cover

There was a while when we wondered where Jamie T went. Silence from South London’s finest answer to the question “what genre do you call this?” left fans yearning for his return. Many were resigned to him not returning at all. Fortunately, almost five years on from his last live appearance, here he is.

It hasn’t been the most ideal circumstances leading to this record for indie’s favourite Mr T, real name Jamie Treays. He found himself writing a scattering of songs since 2016’s top 5 album Trick, feeling unable to harness a direction. This is not far off what happened between his second and third efforts (Kings and Queens and Carry on the Grudge, respectively), where concerned fans set up even a Facebook page.

However, Treays’ track record suggests he only emerges when the music is congruous with where he wants it to be. He works at his own pace for himself, but it also ensures quality and satisfaction for fans. The Theory Of Whatever is, gloriously, no exception.

Teaming up with friend and fellow musician Hugo White taking the reins on production, formerly of the much-missed The Maccabees, The Theory of Whatever is snappy and energetic and is authentically Jamie T. White focuses Treays’ prolific creativity, with an archive of hundreds of songs to narrow down. The 13 parts remaining make up a polished and courageous album.

Brimming with references to London (‘The Terror of Lambeth’, ‘St George’s Wharf Tower’), Jamie T balances his characteristic unrefined style with more tender moments, a line he has toed perfectly throughout his career. There are two sides to his music which dovetail effortlessly. This follows on from his beloved previous albums, most notably Panic Prevention, reissued for its 15th anniversary last year.

Jamie T songs, on the whole, lend themselves to community, with the lead single ‘The Old Style Raiders’ displaying this. It’s an uplifting, fist-in-the-air anthem waiting to be belted out in fields up and down the country. Come next summer, I’m sure it’ll become a favourite of the festival calendar, along with now modern classics ‘Sticks N’ Stones’ and ‘Sheila’. 

Sonically, The Theory of Whatever is more expansive than previous efforts, seeing Treays incorporating synths and ambient style. Intro ‘90s Cars’ is a free-flowing monologue over an instrumental which has a sound that neighbours In Rainbows period Radiohead. This is foiled by Treays’ distinctive style, drawing influences from all corners of a plethora of genres; a mix of Billy Bragg, The Streets, Blur and several others, perhaps. Such is his unmistakable sound; however, that The Theory of Whatever sounds like him and him only.

Treays’ lyrics occasionally feel inconsistent (what does “she’s keying Lamborghinis in my mind” actually mean?), but this can be forgiven. He’s simply making the music that he wants.

If the last 15 years of Jamie T’s career have shown anything, it’s that audiences latch onto his authenticity.

Producer Hugo White’s fingerprints can be prominently heard over some of the tracks’ instrumentals, namely on the outstanding noughties indie throwback ‘A Million and One New Ways To Die’ and ‘Old Republican’, sounding not lightyears away from early to mid-period Maccabees. The latter is a spiritful nuts-and-bolts indie push, which could easily soundtrack a montage on Football Focus; never a bad thing.

The album reaches a crescendo with lo-fi piano ballad ‘50,000 Unmarked Bullets’, which hears Treays directly addressing his audience. Yet again he fuses characteristic belligerence with introspectivity and hope (“Someone that you love / someone’s holding on / someone will not let go“). The ending is a really nice touch, which could easily feel insincere but does the opposite and triumphs. It goes back to the central principle of Jamie T’s career; producing music that is aggressively genuine to him.

The Theory of Whatever is a fantastic record that has everything you could want from a Jamie T album. Festival-ready anthems, thoughtfully interspersed with more gentle ones, and a sonic expansion which keeps the album engaging and cohesive. He’s back, and here to stay until he decides to dip again on his terms. Enjoy it.

Catch Jamie T in Manchester at Victoria Warehouse in November; tickets here.

The Theory of Whatever will be released on 29th July 2022.

Alex Cooper

Alex Cooper

Head Music Editor and Writer for the Mancunion. Once walked past Nick Cave in Zagreb. Enquiries: [email protected]

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