Jamie Lenman plays by his own rules.
Label: Big Scary Monsters
Released: 27th October 2017
“The bang of the drum is my hard beat” repeats Jamie Lenman as the opener to ‘Devolver’ climbs towards its peak and, in that hook, you get a picture for the whole album: huge riffs, massive choruses, a lot of focus on the percussion and music you can dance to.
It’s been over nine years since ending his band Reuben and four years since his half-thrash / half-folk debut solo album; it’s fair to say Jamie Lenman plays by his own rules when it comes to music. And, that’s no different when it comes to ‘Devolver’.
The return of the Jamie Lenman we know and love in the screaming, white-knuckle, romps of ‘Waterloo Teeth’ and ‘Personal’ are a joy, but the genius in ‘Devolver’ is when he goes against his instinct.
As a result, this album bursts with ideas; some of them clashing wonderfully like the return single ‘Mississippi’ where Jamie depicts the loss of his father but, musically, it’s a stomping chant guaranteed to be a live favourite.
Or, big pop number ‘Body Popping’ takes aim at celebrity culture with JL’s usual charm “If you cannot do a fucking thing, you can still get big” to the sound of fuzzing lo-fi jaunt.
Despite the changes in style, this album manages to be instantly recognisable as Jamie’s own with his voice- often varying extremes of whispers to screams – is almost iconic in its own right. As usual, the lyrics are a snapshot of his own life and, combined with huge rock tracks like ‘Hell In A Fast Car’ which are so immediate and heavy on the ride, sections of ‘Devolver’ would fit anywhere on his musical timeline. It feels like “Jamie Lenman” and then some.
But, as you think you figured out ‘Devolver’ then it switches up again as ‘I Don’t Know Anything’ opens as a swaggering, Don Broco-style, disco-pop banger but, with the help of added strings, reduces to a bleary-eyed inward look at yourself before emerging triumphantly again in a powerful drum solo.
Off the back of that track, ‘Bones’ is decorated with piano and brass as the drums swing over this bluesy number before ripping out a face-melting guitar solo and it’s hard to tell where the album is going next.
It’s difficult not to dissect every track on this album as they all come layered with varying textures and approaches. As the album closes out with the title track, the singer bares all as he cries “I am irrelevant” before the track becomes a melting pot for all those different sounds that decorate the album in an epic final blast.
As an album, this is all about Jamie Lenman being let loose to explore his ideas and influences (those influences do resemble a Jackson Pollock painting) and it somehow all ties together brilliantly. That freedom that flows through the album results in tracks to dance to, head bang to, laugh and cry to and from those first Reuben fans to those new to the party, ‘Devolver’ has something to love. Alexander Bradley