Jamie Lenman will always be known as the frontman of post-hardcore heroes Reuben, but since emerging from the shadows as a solo artist back in 2013, he has put some serious effort into becoming the solo entity that he deserves to be known as.
His comeback effort was the mammoth 22 track double disc monster ‘Muscle Memory’, which was half an extreme metal/hardcore hybrid of heaviness and half a melodic, stripped back blend of blues, country, folk and jazz. Backed with his knack for an ear worm hook and an earth shattering riff, this was a triumphant return from an incredibly talented and well-loved songwriter.
As Jamie had taken his time to make this album and had given vague plans as to what was to come next, there was worry amongst fans as to whether we’d hear another album from him again. At the very start of this year, a brand-new track appeared and thus the hype train arrived at the platform. Throughout the year, we’ve had a couple more singles come through which had many chomping at the bit and then finally came the announcement of second album ‘Devolver’.
Always one to keep evolving and pushing forward as a musician and songwriter, Jamie returns with a heart on sleeve rock-meets-pop opus with plenty of twists and turns on the way.
All the singles that we’ve heard so far appear here. Opening track ‘Hard Beat’ builds from a simplistic guitar line backed with a shaker to transform into a drum driven rock monster, with Lenman’s powerful vocals harmonising and overlapping making for a particularly huge introduction. ‘Waterloo Teeth’, ‘Hell In A Fast Car’ and comeback track ‘Mississippi’ are all fierce, swaggering rock tunes with choruses for days and beefy, sassy riffs that’ll make you stick yer neck out! When you hear the singles you think this is going to be a straight up party record, but Lenman has far bigger plans here.
‘Body Popping’ has got this rapped vocal in the chorus, which comes out of nowhere considering the brooding, melodic rock demeanour that dominates it, but it totally works and makes for a fully enthralling composition! ‘Comfort Animal’ is a short and sweet switch up between a lo-fi full band instrumental that sweeps into haunting piano chords, surrounded by glittering electronics for hair raising results.
Then there’s the title track, which closes the album in the most theatrical and frankly epic way. It starts as a heartfelt ballad type pop tune, with Jamie passionately claiming “I am irrelevant”. This then moves into a big fuck off breakdown as distorted guitars and thunderous drums get stuffed down your ears to then transcend into a final rendition of the chorus which is just humongous! I sense that Jamie Lenman’s mantra for this record is ‘go big or go home’ and Devolver takes no prisoners here in delivering an album that demands your attention and never lets it go!
Although, the biggest surprise on this record for me, as a mega nerd, was to find a rehashed Reuben tune in the tracklisting. I remember hearing the opening groove for the track ‘I Don’t Know Anything’ on a studio diary video that the band put up nearly 10 years ago now. I never found out what the track was until now and boy, was it worth the wait. The groove alone is enough to make every limb in your body move uncontrollably but when the strings come in and lead the track to a gargantuan conclusion, you can see why Lenman has taken his time with this track and it is undoubtedly his finest power-pop song to date. I think I shrieked when I first heard this and I hope a load of Reuben nerds join me in losing their shit over this.
What I love about this album is how you don’t know what’s coming next. It’s an eclectic listen, not in an overcrowded way but in an extremely thrilling and enticing way. This is definitely a rock album with a very strong pop centre, but it’s all its other little reference points that make it an incredibly brave and sincere album, made by someone that loves music of all forms. There is no denying the strength of the songwriting and the ideas here; this is the flamboyant, over the top, heart on sleeve album that we wanted and needed! All hail King Lenman!