Jamie Lenman - Muscle Memory (Xtra Mile Recordings)
|Jamie Lenman - Muscle Memory|
Release Date: 11th November 2013
Anticipation's a bitch ain't it? Since I discovered the band Reuben around the time their last album proper was released, I've been in love with the music that comes out of the brain of one Jamie Lenman. So, when I heard that there was a double album of his material coming out I literally couldn't wait to hear it. Lenman, to me, is special because he is capable of writing the most tender, sweet, heart rending ballad that can make this grown man cry but at the flick of a wrist can churn out the most ear-bleedingly visceral songs fuelled by hate, malice and utter despair with the modern world. He might not be the happiest chap around but happy isn't always what I'm looking for in my music and when it comes to the un-happy then Lenman is the way to go.
Just to be clear from the get-go, Muscle Memory is a double album of songs that is split in to the two halves of Lenman's personality; anger vs observational melancholy. There is a smack around the face triumvirate of 'The Six Fingered Hand', 'Fizzy Blood' and 'No News Is Good News' to kick things off with relentless guitars, mostly incomprehensible screaming and rapid fire drumming. By the time you reach 'One Of My Eyes Is A Clock' and 'Shower Of Scorn' you'll either have switched off completely or you'll be screaming at your own face in the mirror but to switch off now would be a mistake as those unmistakable Lenman melodies and lyrical subtleties are starting to show through. The grinding riff of 'A Terrible Feeling' pounds and head butts the listener until it makes way for the brilliantly title 'The Fuck Of It All' more relaxed take on anger and bitterness. Maintaining a fabulous track record of song titles, 'All The Things You Hate About Me, I Hate Them Too' is up next followed by the more subtle 'Gary, Indiana' which has a certain stoner rock feel to it until the doom laden vocals kick in. The groovy bassline that opens 'A Plague On Both Your Houses' along with the loose drums is probably the moment that is most reminiscent of Reuben's material and signals the shift from extreme aggression in to a more considered approach to the music on the rest of the album. It is also one of my favourite songs on the album with its siren like guitars and mix of screamo and almost rap-like patter at times. 'Muscle' finished off the heavier side of this album with the death throes of a beast accepting the anger in its life as part of who it is and becoming at one with itself.
|Musical genius and dapper gent. Gentius.|
It's the second half of this album that sees Lenman really stretching out though as he tries on a variety of musical styles and is that annoying kind of bastard that suits every hat he puts on. Opening with the gentle ukulele of 'Shotgun House' we find our hero in wistful, historical mood - in complete contrast to the earlier tracks. 'I Ain't Your Boy' is a soft shoe shuffle of a song that would have a crowd of lighters held aloft at most rock shows before giving way to the soft and beautiful duet of 'It's Hard To Be A Gentleman'. The muted Banjo of 'For God's Sake', coupled with the New Orleans shuffling percussion and mumbled lyrics creates an aura in which you can almost hear the crackle of bonfires and the click of restless crickets. 'Little Lives' is another musically gentle tune but, as always, the lyrics pack a punch even if the music is more subdued. There's nothing subdued about 'If You Have To Ask You'll Never Know' which is a rousing bluegrass stomp that could easily sit on any album by label mates Crazy Arm or Frank Turner and it basically pisses all over the bonfire that Mumford lot built. Half of the recent single and stand out track, 'Pretty Please', is just a joyous song in every sense as Lenman puts on his best spats, waxes his moustache and takes the idea of our constant need for validation in everything we do for a spin around a dimly lit dance floor. This is the kind of song that used to get people excited about Ben Folds Five such is the excellent melody, pithy lyrical content and complete disregard for anything remotely approaching what might be considered 'cool'.
Next up is the persistent chug of 'A Quiet Understanding', a song that so beautifully sums up the feeling of knowing that your girlfriend's best male friend really fancies her and she doesn't realise it. Jealousy? Perhaps. Experience? Fo sho. Now, prepare yourself for this next track. The title is 'Saturday Night' but the opening line, set against a lone acoustic strum, is "My old man died on a Saturday night, I watched as he just stopped breathing'. I don't know if this is a true story but I don't think the crackle of emotion or hint of tears would be so evident in this song if this was an imagined scenario. - it's heartbreakingly beautiful in its simplicity. To bring you back from the edge of tears is the a cappella chain gang chant of 'A Day In The Life' where, accompanied only by the rhythmic stomp of boots, a group of male voices sing a world weary melody and tell the story of how the vast majority of us wage slaves spend our days. To finish up the collection is the banjo twang of 'Memory' that sees Lenman again in reminiscent mood as the song builds in to a reluctant epic. There are tour dates but these are reported to be the first and last for this album and although disappointing that somehow seems fitting. 'Muscle Memory', to my ears, sounds like someone collecting their thoughts and emotions from the past few years and putting down a record of it. It wouldn't surprise me if next year Lenman came back with a whole new album, either solo or with a band, but one thing is for sure; the genius and the mischievous sparkle are still very much there. Bravo, sir. Bravo.
More information: http://www.jamielenman.com/
10th November - Banquet Records, Kingston-Upon-Thames
4th December - Green Door Store, Brighton
5th December - Temple, Birmingham
6th December - King Tuts, Glasgow
7th December - Night & Day, Manchester
8th December - Thekla, Bristol
9th December - Garage, London
10th December - Garage, London