Susan Darlington reviews Chris T-T: Best Of (Xtra Mile Recordings)
“HAVE you ever seen a single person change his mind?” asks Chris T-T in his song Preaching to the Converted. It’s a question that every single protest singer must have pondered but not many would have the humour and courage to voice in public.
The London-based musician returns to that quandary on the jaunty indie of Love Me, I’m a Liberal but, despite his self-awareness, he keeps returning to the broad theme of political protest over these two discs.
Serendipitously starting his career in the year Tony Blair came to power, Best Of spans T-T’s 20th anniversary and brings together favourites and studio rarities that cover his 10 solo albums.
A number of tracks conform to the traditional image of the politico-folkie, notably The Huntsman Comes A-Marchin’ and Bored Of The War.
But for the most part he’s more indebted to indie-pop, with the scratchy DIY of Ownership, the Carter USM-esque Shit From All Angles — which sounds like the vocals were delivered through a megaphone — and the lo-fi synth pop of The English Earth.
Yet, despite the often minimal production, T-T’s well aware of the value of a singalong chorus and pop sloganeering, with Drink Beer merrily parodying Bill Withers’s Lean on Me with its “We all need some beer to lean on” line.
There are times when the humour gets a little too schoolboy — Eminem Is Gay — and some of the lines are clangers — “bought [dinner] in a packet/and it tasted of boiled boredom” — but the way in which he weaves the pop culture of Robbie Williams, Dawson’s Creek, and the Daily Mail into songs that scrutinise relationships in the context of politics, is refreshingly uncontrived. That’s evident on his light-hearted attempt at anti-cool empowerment You Can Be Flirty. It’s far removed from Christina Aguilera’s Beautiful yet its wonky sentiments and countrified indie-pop is somehow more endearing.
There may be songs that fall short or miss their mark such as the shouty indie-rock of The Bear but, in today’s political climate, there’s more need than ever for such voices of dissent.