Jamie Lenman – Devolver (Big Scary Monsters)
|Jamie Lenman - Devolver|
Release Date: Out Now
So, this is definitely one of those situations where anticipation has been building nicely until you’re left with a real Christmas Eve feeling and then Jamie Lenman drops this album and suddenly Christmas Day becomes more like the Day of the Dead mixed with Carnivale in Rio and the best Bank Holiday weekend ever. Imagine that. ‘Devolver’ is not the end of a particular road for Lenman who went through a hell of a journey with former band Reuben and then went for a double album as his first release because, well, why not? No, this is rather the merging from the A Roads of relative obscurity on to a big three lane motorway that is faster, bigger, brighter and generally more exciting.
The album opens with ‘Hardbeat’ and an itchy, futuristic rhythm that is more akin to Gorillaz than any of Lenman’s earlier work apart from a couple of Reuben tracks where they experimented with electronic processing. As the song evolves, unfolds and opens up to the sun it reveals itself to be euphoric and hopeful in nature but when they drums finally arrive we’re in the middle of a Viking knees up and no mistake. Lenman has announced his arrival and if this isn’t the set opener on the forthcoming tour then the man can surely only have something more fitting up his sleeve as this seems the perfect way to start any kind of party. ‘Waterloo Teeth’ kicks hard with a barrage of guitars and drums in classic style with aggression, gritted teeth and already we can hear that percussion is a theme on this album as there are persistent, mechanical rhythms clicking and cracking away in the background ominously – even when the unhinged children’s choir joins in.
On ‘Personal’ we have a funky bass line and Lenman’s vocal taking centre stage singing “looking to the heavens and singing “come and get me”, I could have been an angel, if they’d only let me”. Lyrically, Lenman has always been ahead of the pack in terms of choosing words or images that cut to the quick with a wry smile but the sheer size of the tunes on this album to back that wit up is next level stuff. ‘Body Popping’ has a more stripped down and minimalist vibe but again that percussive focus is there with Peter Gabriel or Talking Heads hints but then a hammering auto-tuned vocal that, on a loop as it is, could be used as a form of mental torture. In a good way. I think.
|Jamie Lenman - not a casting couch|
As much as Lenman is known (quite rightly) for his abrasive and juggernautical power, he has the ability to cross that line as he does on the bleak and sparse ‘Comfort Animal’ but before long we’re back on the road with a tank full of gas; we’re heading for ‘Mississippi’. The monotone guitar chug allows Lenman to shout his lyrics before the gang choir joins on with “I can’t let go” and the song builds slowly, ominously like early Queens of the Stone Age trying to get a track in to the last series of Twin Peaks. ‘Hell in a Fast Car’ keeps on the freeway with a stuttering beat and sleazy guitars that scream alongside “We’re going to hell in a fast car with the top down and no seat belts” like Gary Numan’s bastard son on a bender.
The bass line, beat and guitar that opens ‘I Don’t Know Anything’ owes more to Chic than any heavy guitar band of the last 20 years. Lenman disarms with the constant change of pace and throwing in a funk guitar line with the odd bit of violin is just the kind of move that makes this album so fresh, engaging and worth a second, third and fourth listen before you’ve even got to the end of the first listen. Similarly, ‘Bones’ has a sludgy, grimy bass growl mixed with a prohibition beat and some of the most tinkling ivories I’ve ever heard on a tune that matches our hero’s new dapper garb. Another feature of Lenman’s work is in strong song titles and ‘All of England is a City’ is another peach, as is the song which explores the concept of the dystopian present that we currently find ourselves living in….if you can call it living.
Unusually, this album closes with the title track, ‘Devolver’, which features the haunting, cutting and entirely self-reflective line “the mistake I often make is how serious I take all my work and myself when I know full well that really I am irrelevant”. That line on its own should be written on parchment and given to every struggling artist, every parent working long hours and missing their children, every 20-something working three jobs but living with their parents just to save enough money to get on to the property ladder. Jamie Lenman is irrelevant but, I would argue, this album is not. As a collection of songs that move a genre forwards this is hugely important, as a challenge to other music makers out there this is timely and as a warning to those that would dumb music down ‘for our own good’ this is bang on the money. Now all we need to do is ensure that his tour in 2018 is a sell-out because I want all to be part of that crowd singing “I am irrelevant” back at the stage with relief ridden glee. It would make a belter of a T-Shirt slogan too.
More information: https://www.facebook.com/jamielenman/
29th October – Truck Store, Oxford
30th October – Resident, Brighton
11th November – Lenmania @ The Dome, Tufnell Park w/Employed to Serve + Palm Reader + Bad Sign + Fizzy Blood + The St. Pierre Snake Invasion + In Dynamics + Broker + Hannah Lou Clark + Jamie Lenman
1st February – O2 Academy 2, Newcastle w/Gender Roles + Loa Loa
2nd February – Stereo, Glasgow w/Gender Roles + Loa Loa
3rd February – Academy 3, Manchester w/Gender Roles + Loa Loa
9th February – O2 Islington Academy, London w/Gender Roles + Loa Loa
10th February – The Haunt, Brighton w/Gender Roles + Loa Loa
11th February – Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth w/Gender Roles + Loa Loa
16th February – The Hub, Plymouth w/Gender Roles + Loa Loa
17th February – Fleece, Bristol w/Gender Roles + Loa Loa
18th February – The Globe, Cardiff w/Gender Roles + Loa Loa
23rd February – Chinnerys, Southend w/Gender Roles + Loa Loa
24th February – Waterfront, Norwich w/Gender Roles + Loa Loa
25th February – O2 Institute 3, Birmingham w/Gender Roles + Loa Loa
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