Perhaps it is true that the word ‘genius’ is bandied about too often these days. Whatever, I hold by my view that there are several of those amongst my Unpopular advent this year. Simon Rivers, Davey Henderson, Edwyn Collins, Vic Godard, Phil Wilson, the young ladies of Smoosh. Add to the list Chris T-T.
I have been under Chris’ spell for some years now, ever since seeing him play support slot for Brakes in Brighton over five years ago. Gosh, how time flies. I said then that I thought Chris was a great soul singer and I stand by that claim even though I know it will sound strange to some. Some will instead claim Chris as a splendid folk troubadour, and even though there is much truth in that it remains true that all the best folk artists have been great soul singers.
Soul and heart are at the core of what Chris T-T does. The music, the songs, those are just the physical embodiment of something much stronger and more vibrant. More important, perhaps. I suspect that Chris would not object to being called a political animal. He understands the fact that politics (as opposed to Politics - although in these days it seems the capital P is becoming more and more crucial) is something that inhabits every aspect of our lives and that to write about politics is to write about life, love and loss: the ingredients of all great Pop.
There is a deeply felt connection between Chris’ songs and the world that informs them. The relationships, loves and hates. The observations and the memories real and imagined. You get the impression from Chris’ songs that he cares deeply about our world and the people he finds in it. It is a feeling that is, crucially, backed up by every other aspect of his public life: in his articles for The Morning Star and in his tweets (most notoriously Chris was the instigator of the fabled ‘iamspartacus’ hashtag*), all of which suggest that Chris is an artist in whom you can put some faith and trust.
Some would say that Chris is an ‘authentic’ artist but I do not hold with the ridiculous notion of ‘authenticty’ in general and in Pop particularly. Everything is a construct, defined in no small part by its context. No, I do not believe in an authentic artist. I do however believe in integrity, artistic effort and reflective rigour. I think that Chris T-T is someone who embodies those facets more than most; is an artist who is intelligent and self-aware enough to acknowledge the contradictions of being both a critic of and an inevitable cog in the industry. He is an artist who understands how to work within and with it instead of against it.
So ‘Love Is Not Rescue’ was always likely to be right up there in my list of most treasured records of 2010 regardless of how it sounded; it’s songs amongst the most played, their lines the most likely to be recalled in moments of solitary reflection. Even the one about Kerouac smiles.
And how did it sound? Well, it was measured and mature, more downbeat and sombre than 2008’s marvellous ‘Capital’ and none the worse for that. Songs like the magnificent ‘Elephant In The Room’ with it’s lines about forgetting how to have a private life (“put it on the Internet and called it ‘sharing’”) and the frankly gorgeous ‘Tall Woman’ with it’s closing lines about the bankers sending their bills said more about the state of contemporary Britain than any number of witty placards. ‘Nintendo’ and ‘Open and Shut’ were beautiful piano driven pieces that continue to display a depth of warmth at odds with the icy fingers creeping over our land (and I don’t mean the Arctic air...). Indeed, my single most treasured musical memory of the year was Chris performing ‘Nintendo’ at Dartington Hall on a Steinway grand. He even sang the ‘correct’ Kerouac line. I felt so privileged. As I said: Genius.
‘Love Is Not Rescue’ may not have been taken Chris into the Premier League of Pop but it certainly delivered a feast of beautiful goals. And in the words of the poet; now I’m using football metaphors. I fucking hate football metaphors...
Buy 'Love Is Not Rescue' on CD or download from Amazon.
*note to self - re-read this in ten years time and see if you can remember what either a ‘hashtag’ was or that ‘iamspartacus’ was not in some way related to Fabian Cancellara)