Back after a six year gap, much of the Wimbledon singer songwriter’s fifth album is on a par with his best work
The heady days of the late 2000s seem like a long time ago now – a world of snakebite and black, Arctic Monkeys songs about pub fights and taxis home, and gigs seemingly frequented by lads disposing of their tops and throwing their beer in the air.
For a while, it seemed as if Jamie Treays had joined the rest of his contemporaries from that particular era. There aren’t too many survivors from that era, with bands like Klaxons and The Rakes disappearing and others like The Libertines or The Streets hopping on the festival nostalgia circuit.
And, after Jamie T’s fourth album Trick in 2016, it seemed as if that was Treays fate too. It’s been six years since we last heard from him, and the world is a very different place than it was in 2016. However, after just one listen to the opening chords of ’90s Cars, you’re somehow transported back to those heady days of 2007.
Treays has apparently written nearly 200 songs for The Theory Of Whatever, discarding most of them until he settled on ones he was happy with. The perfectionism has paid dividends, as, at its best, much of this album is on a par with Treays’ best work, especially on the more anthemic numbers. The presence of Hugo White from The Maccabees as producer also helps to give the album its focus.
The Old Style Raiders has a real rush to it, Treays’ trademark half-rapped vocals giving way to a glorious, soaring chorus, while A Million And One New Ways To Die is even better, an exhilarating surge of a song that will be greeted like an old friend at live shows. He’s equally effective when the pace drops, as on the woozy, disorientating The Terror Of Lambeth Love (which samples Charles Watson‘s solo track Now That I’m A River).
There are also moments on The Theory Of Whatever that throw a bit of a curveball. Talk Is Cheap is an acoustic ballad which begins with Treays announcing “sorry”, before talking about how a combination of cocaine and poor mental health has affected people he loved in the past. It’s not an easy listen, but it’s an affecting one. The closing 50,000 Unmarked Bullets mines similar confessional territory, with the piano accompaniment lending a gospel majesty to the track.
There are missteps occasionally. Keying Lamborghinis is a bit too sprawling and the electronica effects start to grate after a while, and British Hell sounds like a Dirty Pretty Things filler track. Yet if The Theory Of Everything isn’t a perfect album, its flaws are all part of the charm – the minimal guitar ballad St George Wharf Tower wouldn’t work in a lot of other hands, but Treays vulnerability and heart makes it a particular standout.
The six year break has obviously done him good creatively – while the surprise and freshness of the Sticks ‘n’ Stones era is understandably a thing of the past, there’s more than enough on The Theory Of Whatever to show why Jamie T has had such longevity.