Best Of albums are never easy: trying to condense a musical career into a single release always feels like something of a gargantuan task. This is especially the case with Chris T-T whose output is not only remarkably prolific but has spanned twenty years. Furthermore, the fact that his career has not been confined to a single medium but encompassed music composition and performance, podcasts, radio and accompaniment makes the Best Of format a bit ill-fitting to contain the bountiful fruits of two decades of creation.
While it is hard to pinpoint Chris T-T down to a single vocation, his style has been consistent throughout his career. It is clear he is a man committed to the Left, and his strong values and beliefs permeate the thirty-nine songs enclosed on this present album. Always on the knife’s edge of radicalism, songs blend the boundaries of rousing and alarming. A prime example is Dreaming of Injured Popstars, which may well gain a laugh from someone tired of repetitive chart music but, equally, might make someone else a bit queasy with the graphic descriptions of violence against famous musicians. A bit later, the ironic Love Me I’m a Liberal takes aim at complacent liberals who fail to take action in the face of the social inequality around them and instead “prop up every crummy hierarchy there ever was, complain around the edges but defend it at all costs”. Perhaps it is this sort of radicalism which has stopped Chris T-T from crossing over into the mainstream, limiting his appeal to the handfuls of people who can stomach such fierce social commentary.
Getting back to the music itself, the album shows Chris T-T’s musical range, varying from rockier numbers like The Headcold Bit of the Winter to acoustic, almost folkloric tracks like The Huntsman Comes A Marching. The latter highlights Chris T-T’s profound lyricism, utilizing poetic techniques such as allegory and imagery. Fittingly, the vocal delivery seems to draw on performance poetry and there’s a distinct orality to a lot of the tracks, where it feels like the listener is being spoken to directly and not just listening to a pre-recorded album. However, despite a marked tendency towards lyrical experimentation, the backing tracks are always a bit more conventional, save for a few quirks that keep the overall sonic signature firmly left of centre.
The culmination of Chris T-T’s musical career is sure to please his fans but his particular brand of radical left psych pop is sure to prove off-putting to fans of more conventional music.
Photo courtesy of Sarita Tam.
Chris T-T’s Best Of was released on May 17th on Xtra Mile Recordings.