With cover albums, a musician can easily fall into either novelty or playing it too safe. It can be rare that an album of covers can maintain the same interest and energy that a conventional release will deliver.
Fully aware of this, Jamie Lenman has taken every step on third release ‘Shuffl’e to avoid these pitfalls. Working on the concept of listening to music on shuffle, the record covers an eclectic range of styles, complete with brief interludes conveying the experience.
Kicking off with a cover of The Beatles track ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’, synths swirl and build to match the intensity of the punk drum beat that forms the backbone. With an infectious energy, Lenman fuses swinging bass lines and stabbing guitars to create a biting and furious version of the 1966 classic.
The same can also be said for ‘Killer’. Disregarding the trance blueprint of the original (by Adamski and Seal), falsetto vocal notes cut through rough guitars and throbbing synths. By choosing punk as the framing for both tracks, Lenman eases the audience into the experimental record.
As ‘Shuffle’ progresses, both the track selection and genre choices become more ambitious. From the spoken word monologue of ‘You’re The Boss’ to the doom laden ‘Adamantium Rage’, not only do we become exposed to exterior influences, such as excerpts from Moby Dick, but each track stretches the concept of a cover further.
On paper, the record should be overly disjointed, but Lenman crafts a coherency throughout with cuts such as ‘Song Of Skeilos’ and ‘Coda’ bleeding into one another effortlessly. Using modulating synths and allowing layered elements to creep in, the aforementioned tracks slowly bring the energy back.
A restless record, ‘She Bop’ turns the pop stylings of Cyndi Lauper into a stomping disco punk rendition, complete with crooning vocals. The same can be said for ‘Love Song For A Vampire’; dismissing the pulsing synths of the original, Lenman resorts to thick and stabbing guitars to create a dark and brooding composition.
Stripped off additional elements, closing number ‘The Remembrance’ focuses on Lenman‘s vocal and a piano arrangement. Focusing on its lyrical message and intimate in its delivery, the track ends the ambitious record on a simple note.
An experimental and fearless release, it not only stretches the concept of a covers album but also creates welcome additions to Lenman‘s catalogue. Accessible yet uncompromising, ‘Shuffle’ redefines its own concept.