I have never been a fan of UK hip-hop, but after Lily Allen's U.S. release a couple weeks ago and now Jamie T.'s Panic Prevention I may have to rethink my earlier preconception. Then again Jamie T. isn't just hip-hop. Depending what song you're listening to you also get reggae, acoustic and punk elements and that is what gives Panic Prevention the lasting appeal that will run until the end of 2007 when 'Best of' lists are being compiled.
To give you an inkling of what you will get out of Jamie T. and his debut full-length, think the Libertines meet Bob Dylan meets the Streets. The guy is as raw as Bright Eyes, but without becoming taxing on the ears. And while comparisons to Mike Skinner will be made, when Jamie T. switches from rhyming to singing you won't regret it.
Out of the 12 tracks there are only two I don't absolutely love and even those are still good. There's no way to start this besides top to bottom. "Brand New Bass Guitar" starts off the album stripped down with acoustic bass and backing vocals to give the listener a feeling of a very naked Libertines track.
We'll skip "Salvador," just know it's good. "Calm Down Dearest" originally annoyed me because Jamie T. sounds drunk (rightfully so, it's a song about being drunk), but the chorus is probably the best on the album and his slurs become more bearable throughout. The chorus sings, "You're heavy, it's on my mind / She says you feel just fine / Rackin' and stackin' them lines / I say, calm down dearest."
"So Lonely Was the Ballad" is our first trek into genuine hip-hop territory. A simple drum beat carries the track to the end and Jamie T. rhymes about youths out on the town. "Girls singing on the bus / Fellas kicking up a fuss / Crying out sighs but they're still looking dangerous / Oh this is definitely all for you." A self-help tape about panic attacks chimes in halfway and the album title begins to make sense.
Next is another standout in form of the acoustic track "Back in the Game." I can easily see fans of Against Me! picking this up and loving it. This is where Jamie T. clearly outshines Mike Skinner. Skinner couldn't pull off a song that relied mostly on his vocals and an acoustic guitar. The track is also a great transition from "So Lonely Was the Ballad" and the punk-influenced "Operation."
The Libertines and even the Artic Monkeys come through on "Operation," which may be the most rock we get out of Panic Prevention. Guitar riffs you'd expect from the aforementioned bands and sing-alongs round out this track to be one of the best on the album and would make for a great live experience. "Take your problem to United Nations / Tell old Kofi about the situation / Tell him how you left the whole congregation / Sittin' in the pews, in the pews, all aloneM," sings Jamie T..
"Sheila" has been getting major radio play in the UK after it was released as a single last July. For those of you looking for more rhymes, "Shelia" picks up where "So Lonely Was the Ballad" left off. The beat is relatively simple, but the rhymes are tight. Before the beat kicks in Jamie T. sings the chorus and after the line "Drunk, she stumbles down by a river / screams calling London" we get this scream in the background that reoccurs throughout the song and while it is such a minor part of the song, it adds so much.
To wrap this up quickly, "Pacemaker" keeps, ironically, the pace "Sheila" started with. "Dry Off Your Checks" is another one of my favorites and is another very stripped-down track that emphasizes Jamie T.'s raw and emotional vocals. The last absolute standout is the single "If You Got the Money." The song is littered with reggae guitar licks, but as with most tracks Jamie T.'s voice carries the song. Like I said earlier, the other two tracks I didn't mention are still great, just not amazing.
The 21-year-old Jamie T. just brought an incredible album to the table. For those fans of any of the artists mentioned in this review, or for anyone looking for something refreshing in 2007 check out Panic Prevention. I would honestly be shocked if you came away truly disappointed.