Jamie T, Rock City, Nottingham
DMC, Jazz Café, London
While the word on the street shows signs of growing up, Old Skool never dies
Sunday 24 January 2010
Let's conduct an experiment. Leave a triangle of Kraft Dairylea in your airing cupboard, and come back to it six months later. It won't have turned to Stilton. What we've learned there, of course, is that "maturity" and "age" are not the same thing.
The class of 2006 – Jack Peñate, Maccabees, Mystery Jets – are on their second albums, and to greater or lesser degrees, they've all stopped sounding like posh kids who couldn't believe what a jolly hoot it was making indie records, and actually done something of moderate aesthetic worth.
Jamie T in particular has, without doubt, matured as opposed to simply aged. Oh, he still sings/raps/rants in that Nu-London accent, an assault on the ears with glottal stops which sound like a rubber plug blocking and unblocking a drain, and his recent bout of laryngitis hasn't made it any lovelier. It's still "swigging on my lit-ohh", it's still "drink got spaaked", and he still has a tendency to sound like Nicholas Lyndhurst playing Coolio. But the quality of his material has edged upwards by 25 per cent.
There were always good tunes in the Panic Prevention days ("Calm Down, Dearest") and flashes of poetry ("songbirds don't do singing on pavements") hiding under the fake façade, but even in saying that, I feel like his auntie or something. Now, if only he'd button his shirt up and comb his hair...
Kings & Queens, his current album, has fewer cider-swilling, smell-my-fingers street-corner narratives, and a little more Betjeman-like grasping after the soul of Britishness. Take forthcoming single "The Man's Machine", an anthemic highlight tonight, with its refrain "Slow cars concrete and gravel ... underground travel in overcast weather ... are all we've got to keep us together". If it didn't sound faintly like The Clash in their shabby Cut the Crap era, it'd be a classic.
Of course, everyone knows every ruddy word, lending his shows a Pogues-like raucousness. It may be that Jamie T is merely holding a mirror up to a generation. I meekly ask that if you recognise yourself in that mirror, smash it and get a new one.
People, as Chuck D once pointed out, always forget how lame rap was before Run DMC came along. In the early 1980s, novelty tracks about horror movies, dance crazes and fast food put the whole genre in danger of being a passing fad. Then they appeared, pork pie hats jammed down over stern brows, dressed in black, with a no-nonsense arms-folded stance, dropping tougher-than-leather beats and rock-hard guitar samples. And nobody rocked a mic quite like Run DMC.
Since the murder of DJ Jam Master Jay in 2002, Run DMC have never performed together, and with DMC's sidekick Run keeping himself busy with reality show Run's House (and being a Reverend), a reunion doesn't look any closer, so a night with Daryl McDaniels is as good as it's gonna get.
DMC may look a little lost at times without his sparring partner and, like Jamie T, he may have vocal problems (he suffers from spasmodic dysphonia), but DJ Charlie Chan is a capable wingman, and he easily makes up any shortfall with crowd participation.
McDaniels' solo material isn't always the greatest. He tells the story of how Sarah McLachlan's song "Angel" saved his life when he was in the depths of depression and alcoholism, inspiring him to search for his birth mother, then performs the cover of "Cat's in the Cradle" he sang with McLachlan. Look away, lachrymose-intolerants.
However, the hits finale – "It's Tricky", "It's Like That" (thankfully unadulterated by any bull-necked Jason Nevins techno nonsense) and the inevitable "Walk This Way" – are a happy reminder of the brutal conciseness of the Old Skool when compared with the Byzantine pomp of present-day hip-hop.
Even without his Running mate, the Devastating Mic Controller still knows a thing or two about raising hell.
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