To put it bluntly, and to cut to the chase straight out of the gate, there are seldom singer/songwriters and artists out there who can with ease, finesse, and great aplomb pull out pretty much any genre, sound, or style quite like Jamie Lenman.
Throughout his nearly twenty year career, which began with the criminally underrated alternative rock trio Reuben (initially named Angel) back in 1998, there are few musical landscapes that he hasn’t somewhat dabbled in. Rock, metal, punk, jazz, swing, thrash – all mastered.
Following Reuben‘s disbandment back in 2008, Lenman‘s surprise return into the arena of music as a solo artist in 2013 came as much welcomed and savoured shock, re-introducing himself with his double-album ‘Muscle Memory’, and, four years later, he’s finally back with a follow-up in ‘Devolver’.
Stepping away from the chalk and cheese of abrasive and mellow split of his solo debuts two entities, there’s a removal from the bi-polar effort of the extreme terrains of metal and explorations of big band on the respective discs, and instead with ‘Devolver’, we return to a far more familiar Reuben-esque environment.
Indeed, long-time Reuben fans will be overjoyed at what could be considered the expectations of that never released fourth record, yet this certainly isn’t a rehashed and predictable return to the past. The rare experimentations of electronica, synth, and more pop laden melodies and backdrops of yore have been made far less subtle and really flourish in the forefront.
Opener ‘Hardbeat’ highlights this right from the kick off; Lenman is almost whispering in our ears as we’re lead into the first chorus, and along the way new sounds pop into the frame after every few bars before the tempo and layers start to build, and, before you know it, you’re reeled right into the thick of it. You’re clicking your fingers, and you’ve got the song embedded in your head on a loop for days to come.
Lenman has always had a real knack for melody, hooks, and getting his material sunk deep into your cranium, and ‘Devolver’ proves it’s here as firm, vigorous, and tenacious as it has ever been. ‘Body Popping’ isn’t dissimilar in its approach and effect. It’s a song in which Lenman offers comment on the music industry of today, a topic he certainly hasn’t shied away from in the past in songs like ‘Return Of The Jedi’.
He returns to the subject of the modern day climate of music in later track, ‘Bones’, which at times sounds like the evolved version of ‘Crushed Under The Weight Of The Enormous Bullshit’ (from 2007’s ‘In Nothing We Trust’). The fuzzy, obnoxious guitar line that brings us in is accompanied by stabs of the piano to give a broodiness which soon dissolves, and in comes a saxophone that resonates down your ears, raises the hairs on the back of your neck, and leaves you vulnerable for the guitar solo that follows suit.
Those after fresh raucous rock offerings that Lenman has laid throughout his career will certainly get their fill. ‘Waterloo Teeth’ is a bombastic cut that could fit easily on any Reuben record, ‘Hell In A Fast Car’ and ‘Mississippi’ will have you head banging until you need to get a neck brace, and those of you who own the band’s ‘What Happens In Aldershot Stays In Aldershot’ DVD will find a lovely throwback riff in ‘I Don’t Know Anything’.
The record’s title-track acts as its culmination, and sees Lenman sing the refrain “I am irrelevant”, but, don’t confuse this as a self-deprecating bow out of the LP. It acts as a sense of emancipation and freedom; that you, I, Jamie, and indeed everyone that you know in the grand scheme of things are all tiny specs of carbon in a complex, and wonderfully unfathomable world, and that’s what helps keep Lenman and us all grounded to reality and what matters.
With ‘Devolver’, Lenman has added yet another opus to his expanding discography of material. With ‘Devolver’, Lenman has proved yet again that he has a seemingly limitless set of strings to his bow that evidently is still growing. With ‘Devolver’, Lenman has proved his genius once again, and could easily stand shoulder-to-shoulder beside some of the greatest songwriters of our time.
Written by Zach Redrup (@zachredrup)