Friday, September 19, 2008

Jamie T

Panic Prevention
Caroline Records

The big thing that makes "Panic Prevention" stand out from other albums by upstart singer-songwriters (besides the ADD genre hopping from song to song, hell, verse to verse) is that this album is built around Jamie's instrument of choice, the bass guitar. So he looks up to the likes of Paul Simenon and Jah Wobble instead of Billy Bragg or Paul McCartney, and well, shit, the album's already looking up. Perhaps we should force more solo artists to base their albums around rhythm instruments instead of the ubiquitous guitar - like drums or cello. "Panic Prevention" is very much the sound of an angry young man in the 21st century - trying to make his way in London, busy London with a head full of punk, pub singalongs, hip hop and the adrenaline rush of youth.

Unfortunately, the album itself is simply okay. The problem is that it's so rooted in its time and place that "Panic Prevention" seems hopelessly out of context (much like the Streets, Dizzee Rascal and many a seemingly worldbeating Brit songsmith) to anyone outside of England. It doesn't translate as well here. The range of instruments and playful savvy used in craftnig these song - winking rather than wanking ya dig - calls to mind a younger Beck who prefers lager and spliffs to mushrooms, but Jamie's voice is hard going, almost too bratty and mischievous and brash for it's own good.

There's so much ambition here, like Jamie T. is trying to compress the Clash's "Sandinista" into one song. At its best, you have songs like "Salvador," ramshackle, junk-shop noir. Or standout "Dry Off Your Cheeks" with Suicide-tastic beats and vocal exhortations that sound distant and strident like a sample of a young Joe Strummer, wire-tight ska guitars and a broken-down keyboard; transmissions from a fucking awesome mix tape on a ratty old boom box. At its worst, frustration reigns. Carnival music meets reggae? Brit rap and janglepop? Like everyone who thinks that this is their one big chance to get it all out there, sometimes his reach exceeds his grasp and the album becomes a little too messy and unfocused, trying to incorporate too many disparate elements at the same time, and coming off like half-measures and slipshod pastiche instead of the sonic picaresque that he intends. Too much, too soon.

- Matthew Moyer

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