Porky first encountered Londoner Chris T-T a decade ago, when he played Priors Inn, Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk. It was a large, grubby but family-style pub that came alive in the evenings with a welter of emerging and obscure acts. Chris gave me a copy of his album, London Is Sinking, that night, and I incorporated into my live review for the local paper. It’s an album I still hold dear for its gentle but brooding style.
Now with the Hoodrats, T-T still plays intimate venues and his current UK tour stops in at Ullapool in the western Highlands, Devizes in Godknowshere and Bury St Edmunds (The Apex).
He’s come along way from that night at Priors, and The Bear (Xtra Mile recordings) is his ninth studio album. In a year that has offered more promise than actual quality (Primal Scream, Stooges, Billy Bragg, New Order have all released disappointing records) the first full outing by T-T and Hoodrats pricks up the pig’s ears, a classic of the indie genre with nods to the Kinks and Blur.
In an era of humdrum, if not outright lazy, writing, The Bear offers a refreshing take on the art of writing. The title track adopts the opening lines to PiL’s volatile Rise, “I could be wrong, I could be right” but there are no fears of it being a misguided cover as T-T shoots forth straight after: “Well done John, marvellous insight, you think buying and selling your soul would be better/ well picture me giving a damn .. whatever”.
As well as Mr Lydon the track namechecks Orson Welles, Louis CK and Joan Rivers. But it is essentially a song about the ordinary man and woman and the line “you need some gumption to fight the bear” refers to people’s stoicism in the face of everyday adversity.
No icon is too big for T-T, and Jesus Christ hails a visionary and laments those who take his name in vain. “When He said let he without sin cast the first stone/ They didn’t understand any of it/ He wasn’t telling using how to behave, he thought he gave his life to set us free,” sings T-T with trumpets and pounding hooks joining in.
Then there’s songs like Paperback Kama Sutra, Bury Me With A Scarab and Idris Lung, music that should be for the masses, but won’t be, as anything educational, challenging or even topical has long since been ditched in the too hard basket for music’s controllers. But the Hoodrats know a good thing or two, and The Bear is a heavyweight album, of intelligence and is the work of act that’s reaching a peak.