‘Limits Lie’ the first track on Carry On The Grudge sounds like Winnie the Pooh’s Eeyore decided to try his hand at being a musician; the sombre backing vocals sound like an exasperated sigh. Following this depressing opener is the single that started it all, ‘Don’t You Find’, which fuelled anticipation for Jamie T’s comeback as well as discussion as to what fans could expect. This track feels like watching a slow motion movie scene; its pace and the eerie backing “ahh-ah-ah” vocal seem to have been elongated and part of you wants it to just hurry up and be over already.
‘Turn On The Light’ suggests that the miserable tone that has been here since the opening song is here to stay: Jamie T sings “wish I’d never been born / got a good looking corpse hanging on to me tightly”. The chorus sees a light flicker on briefly, there’s a slight moment of hope but then Jamie T’s mediocre vocal switches the listener’s light back off again. It’s not until the final minute that the lyrics really begin to resonate (“I’m just another lover / to her friends”) and it starts to sound like the song is really about that light bulb moment when you realise you don’t mean as much to somebody else as you thought you did.
An acoustic red-herring, the opening to ‘Zombie’ complies with the rest of the album thus far before bursting into an upbeat, catchy and quintessentially addictive little rhythm. When Jamie T’s songs have a raucous beat and you find yourself out of breath after singing along that’s when it’s best and therefore its unsurprising that ‘Zombie’ is without a doubt a standout.
‘The Prophet’ opens with a little ‘yeah’ that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Vampire Weekend demo. It’s just Jamie T’s raw social commentary and an unobtrusive melody, but the two don’t quite fit together. There’s familiar angst conveyed in the lyrics “you’re like a fucking hurricane next to me” but the echoing vocal especially on “it can’t be any worse than what I’ve been up to” sounds out of character and a little odd.
‘Mary Lee’ sounds best when it’s simply Jamie T singing “what a stupid young boy I was to let Mary leave”; when there is violin in the background it all sounds a bit like the early stages of a migraine. It’s a bit fuzzy and mildly irritating. It’s a remarkably forgettable exploration into blues territory and this ‘Mary Lee’ character sounds rather like her irritating fictional cousin, Mary Sue.
‘Trouble’ sticks out like a sore thumb as a bust up in a side alley with tumultuous ska-funk. Jamie T trips and falls over lyrics sounding remarkably like Baloo from Jungle Book crossed with Justin Timberlake – then the whole thing is layered over a spooky but catchy melody that Michael Jackson would be proud of. The whole thing starts off promising, but tails off towards the end.
‘Rabbit Hole’ is the second best track after ‘Zombie’ and there’s a plenty of familiar wordplay surrounding ‘tripping’ and going down the ‘rabbit hole’ – after all Alice In Wonderland is a remarkably trippy concept with characters so ludicrous it’s hard to place them in any reality. It’s not really a subtle commentary on narcotics either, as Jamie T declares “She got low / I got high tonight”.
‘Peter’ is a remarkably angry lyrical, put to a rhythm that sounds remarkably like the Kaiser Chiefs’ ‘I Predict A Riot’. This song epitomises the notion that sometimes you’re your own worst enemy, opening with the declaration that “sometimes I feel like there’s someone in my head… he wants me dead”. Naming this hateful entity in his conscious, Jamie T discloses how twisted an individual ‘Peter’ is, “Peter wants to fuck your girl”. Whilst it’s not the rapid fire lyric spitting I’ve been lamenting the absence of over the course of Carry On The Grudge, it’s gritty and it’s real and it’s infinitely preferable to whiny tracks like ‘Don’t You Find’ and ‘Mary Lee’
‘Love Is Only A Heartbeat Away’ sounds like a Jake Bugg song minus his trademark nasal annoyance. It doesn’t sound like Jamie T by any means and you want to shoo away the violins and ask for more of whatever drove the creation of previous track, ‘Peter’, to be forcibly shoved down Jamie T’s throat.
I kept waiting for a little bit of rap in ‘Love Is Only A Heartbeat Away’ but to no avail. Hoping ‘Murder Of Crows’ will pick my spirits up, I press play. There’s a hard edge to Jamie T’s vocal that makes it difficult to attempt to sing along – it sounds like somebody who can’t sing has recorded themselves trying already. The accompanying percussion is very tinny and empty and it sounds like there was some building work going on in the background whilst recording took place.
Wistful closer ‘They Told Me It Rained’ sounds like Jamie T’s been singing along to Tom Odell’s ‘Long Way Down’ in the shower. The repeated “heavy heavy heavy heavy heavy monster sound” sounds like overcompensation – a final bid for the listener to find substance in this mismatched and staggeringly disappointing album. When the Wimbledon songwriter sings “I give up / I give in / just show me love / just show me love” we’re willing to give him a hug and say “there there”, but we’re not quite willing enough to ‘love’ this latest musical entity of his… To quote my beloved Eeyore himself: “I’d look on the bright side… if I could find it”.
‘Carry On The Grudge’ released 29th September 2014. Pre-Order ‘Carry On The Grudge on iTunes – http://po.st/COTG