We had this a couple of weeks before playing it. A bloke we’ve never heard of issuing a best-of package as he jacks it in after 20 years of limited success? What’s going to be good about that?
A lot, it transpires. The man’s a genius at what he does, with an unlimited supply of clever lyrics, and he knocks out some top tunes to boot.
We might say that it shows timing is all, and that if he started today he’d be spotted by Frank Turner and signed up, probably getting a few high-profile gigs, but he actually knows Turner and has toured as a Sleeping Soul. T-T (born Thorpe-Tracey) is a writer for left-wing newspaper The Morning Star, so perhaps he never wanted success in that form.
Anyway: Turner is very much in the mould of Chris T-T — punky folk with angry, intelligent or witty lyrics, though T-T is more whimsical. His songs are either childishly comic, humorous or serious, the latter encompassing both politically serious and the proper folk tunes he turns in when he feels like it.
We reckon T-T hears something and it generates a song, as a lot of the tracks sound like the thing he’s mocking. Opener Dreaming of Injured Popstars is as childishly amusing as it sounds, as Michael Gambon runs amok in a dream maiming popstars; one section mentions Nicky Wire being burned down (as per Welsh holiday homes) and the song has the riffy guitar of a Manics song.
Other silly songs include Drink Beer, which is a hymn to adopting the gods’ solution to dealing with life, which to us sounds like a Blur song but with better lyrics: “You need a steady job to pay for lubrication” or “Better to have died of drink/ Than never to have drunk at all.” Then there’s Eminem is Gay — not a crib of a Mathers tune but a joyous pop tune about Eminem, presumably in riposte to some of the rapper’s dodgier lyrics.
Other songs are more serious, from the indie rock love song You Can Be Flirty to the atmospheric acoustic tune What If My Heart Never Heals?
But it’s the general cleverness and wit that is most impressive: in the opening song, the word “Cher” (who apparently can’t sing very well) is heavily Autotuned and there are loads of throwaway clever lines, such as — picked at random — “Billy Bragg’s gone fishing in his 4×4”.
The Headcold Bit Of The Winter apes QOTSA’s Feel Good Hit Of The Summer, the one that opens “Nicotine, Valium, Vicodin, marijuana, ecstasy and alcohol”; T-T’s version has “Lucozade, Benolyn, Nurofen, Lemsip, Anadin, hot milk”.
He might not have made it to stadiums musically but he is successful generally: in 2012 he gave a TED talk and in 2013 he was the inaugural artist-in-residence (popular music) at Leeds Metropolitan University.