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Album review: Chris T-T “9 Green Songs”

May 26, 2016

By turns sardonic, polemical, articulate, funny and vulnerable, ‘9 Green Songs’ is an exhilarating white-knuckle ride through the technicolour daydreams and feverish nightmares that inform the worldview of one Britain’s most singular creative people.

Click here to read the whole review at Folk Radio UK

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Cover of Chris T-T '9 Green Songs'Chris T-T’s new album 9 Green Songs is his follow-up to The Bear (2013) and finds the singer/songwriter in fine fettle, tackling each composition in his customary upfront, no-nonsense manner. The ten songs cover a range of musical styles and lyrical content, peppered with the pithy commentary and piercing insights for which he is renowned.

Lead single ‘#WorstGovernmentEver’ gets the album off to a flying start. It’s a hefty slab of garage rock with a suitably angry lead guitar break in the middle and a lyric belted out like a protest march slogan which comprehensively savages, well, the #WorstGovernmentEver. Unapologetically populist in its presentation, it handles the limitations of the three-minute single as a vehicle for nuanced political debate with flair and without making a pig’s ear of it.

The PR notes for ‘Love Me I’m A Liberal’ cast it as (I’m paraphrasing) “a brutal indictment of the clicktivist sensibilities of hipsters on social media”, happy to use the platform for virtue signalling and “doing not much else”. The song sets out his opinion in no uncertain terms and credit is due to Chris for tackling this particularly thorny subject with such passion.

The sunny, trumpet-driven pop of ‘Hallucinating’ provides an interesting juxtaposition to its lyrical content; a breakup song in which a (I assume) male protagonist, unwittingly and without a shred of self-awareness, exposes his disturbingly abusive, misogynist tendencies while justifying them with the flimsiest of excuses. It’s a clever and thoughtful piece of writing about a complex and difficult topic which repays repeated plays.

Over a throbbing motorik beat which would have made Klaus Dinger proud, Chris intones the lyrics to ‘Cutting A Longbow’ as a spoken word piece. An unflinchingly stark, stream of consciousness rant, it takes aim at a long list of what ails this sceptred isle in the twenty-first century. It’s not an easy listen – I suspect that’s the point – but it paints a vivid word picture of contemporary Britain which is never less than compelling and thought-provoking.

One of the album’s highlights, ‘A Hard Rain’ is a midtempo, indie-folk ballad complete with fingerstyle electric guitar, accordion and a surprisingly jaunty, whistling analogue synth. Initially easy on the ear, it doesn’t take long to surmise that Chris is recounting the ‘click moment’ of a hitherto blissfully unaware citizen, when the realities of life in the Anthropocene epoch finally hit home. It’s a huge and emotive subject and Chris is one of a very few musicians fearless and eloquent enough to do it justice.

‘This Is What Drowning Is Like’ provides a poignant postscript to ‘A Hard Rain’ as its protagonist looks back on his life only to regret the opportunites wasted and chances missed to do something meaningful. Last minute existential angst is an unusual choice of topic and while the introspection is a little out of keeping with the overall mood of anger which dominates the album, it’s a welcome, musically calm interlude.

Sure enough, the mood is lifted in no uncertain manner by ‘A Garden On The Motorway’. Bursting in through the patio doors of your mind’s eye, like a giant mutant environmentalist triffid it tramples mud all over the carpet while enthusing about a plan to unpave paradise and liberate it from all those undeserving one-to-a-car commuters. Whimsical pipedream it may be, but it’s a cheery thought conveyed with a glint in its eye and a grin on its face – and, who knows, the promise of guerrilla gardening thousands of miles of tarmac might be enough to drag even the clicktivists of ‘Love Me I’m A Liberal’ away from their computer screens.

The careworn ‘Anyone’s Song’ muses on the difficulty of living in a world where everyone’s wrong but you, while remaining upbeat and positive enough to be able to tolerate fools gladly. It’s a strong, a capella rendition which sits in stark contrast to the sample-heavy electronica of the penultimate ‘Admit Nothing’, an uncompromising sound collage, the significance of which I admit I’ve had difficulty in apprehending.

Over a forlorn electronic chirruping reminiscent of an old modem (or maybe it’s a satellite), ‘The Border Crossing’ brings the album to its close in an introspective mood, featuring just Chris singing solo over some spacious piano chords. It’s a curiously downbeat ending, a real heart-on-your-sleeve performance full of personal thoughts and memories, and while the intensity may initially make a stark contrast to songs like ‘#WorstGovernmentEver’ and ‘A Garden On The Motorway’, nevertheless, in the overall context of the album, it doesn’t feel especially out of place.

By turns sardonic, polemical, articulate, funny and vulnerable, 9 Green Songs is an exhilarating white-knuckle ride through the technicolour daydreams and feverish nightmares that inform the worldview of one Britain’s most singular creative people. File under uneasy listening for turbulent times.

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Originally posted at Folk Radio UK (26 May 2016)

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