In the second part of a brand new series we’ve got Weaponry frontman Al Bristow to talk about some of the lesser lights of heaven in the Metal scene. You know, the ones who never got the credit they deserved? So his second pick from the Chocolate Selection Box of the Metal World is Jamie Lenman & Reuben…
…I was recently speaking to someone who loved Jamie Lenman’s album “Devolver” but had no idea who or what his previous band Reuben were. This surprised me massively but it’s great that Jamie Lenman hasn’t just picked up the Reuben fans and is playing to the same crowds from a decade ago. He has entered into the fray on his own as a credible solo artist and rightly so. He has all the signs of a classic, inventive and serious rockstar. ‘Eclectic‘ would be one way to describe Lenman’s music, that has influences as broad ranging as rock, metal, pop, punk, blues, jazz, bluegrass, hip-hop, acoustic, RnB and err… TV theme tunes?! As this is Metal Noise, the first song needing mentioning is the song the man himself proclaimed to be the heaviest song at Download 2018, “One Of My Eyes Is A Clock”. This is on Jamie’s debut solo album “Muscle Memory” which is 22 songs, 11 songs to show off his heaviest side and 11 to show off his softer side.
Now go and listen to “I Ain’t Your Boy” or “It’s Hard To Be a Gentleman” from the very same album. What is going on!? Who releases an album like this!? A bloody genius that’s who! The first time I saw Reuben (supporting Funeral For A Friend in a school hall – don’t ask) I had no idea who they were. They played a song that wormed its way into my ears and hasn’t left in nearly 20 years. Jamie chanting the chorus to “Let’s Stop Hanging Out” on that school stage is a memory I will never forget. It is a great way to enter into Reuben’s music.
Everyone seemed to be tipping Reuben to be the next big band but they didn’t get signed for a long time. When they finally got picked up by Xtra Mile Recordings they had such an enormous back catalogue that their debut album had 16 songs on it. However, the brilliantly titled “Racecar Is Racecar Backwards” never outstays its welcome. The 3 singles released for the album showcase the bands talents perfectly. “Stuck In My Throat” has some seriously great drumming from Guy Davis where as “Freddy Kreuger” brings the bass of Jon Pearce to the front. The 3rd single “Moving To Blackwater” is all about Jamie Lenman’s song writing ability – the lyrics in this song are next level. As a side note, my band Weaponry’s song “Moving To Andromeda” is a homage (of sorts) to this tune!
“Very Fast Very Dangerous” came next hitting number 4 in the UK Rock charts. The album came out a little over a year after Racecar because Reuben had so many songs written by the time they were signed. “Blamethrower” was a great single from this album and they also touched on a very soft and sweet side of Jamie Lenman’s song-writing with love song, “Nobody Loves You”. Very Fast… also included a 7 minute long epic about piracy and the struggles of the music business called “Return Of The Jedi”. This was a new string to Reuben’s bow as most songs before this were in the 3/4 minute mark.
The third and final Reuben album “In Nothing We Trust” had songs with a more intricate and deep sound and the versatility of the band is really shown in this album. The third track, “Suffocation Of The Soul”, is another 7 minute epic and it’s sat next to “Deadly Lethal Ninja Assassin”, featuring Frank Turner, which is a close call for the band’s most poppiest song (it’s a coin toss between this and “Freddy Krueger”). “Blood, Bunny, Larkhall” is another heavy as hell tune that comes near the end of the album which is only followed by the final track, the aptly named “A Short History Of Nearly Everything”. I’ve often wondered whether the Bill Bryson book title was used here because there was an idea this would be the last song on the last Reuben album, or because the song touches on similar themes to the book, or is it a look back to “Return Of The Jedi” – or maybe all three. After Reuben ended but before Jamie Lenman came back solo, I read an interview where he stated this was the best song he has ever written. I completely agreed then, and I still do now. In my eyes, they went out on top.
Since crashing back into the consciousness of every Rock and Metal fan in the UK with “Muscle Memory”, Jamie Lenman has released two more albums, “Devolver” and “Shuffle“. Again Jamie doesn’t stick to any one genre on “Devolver” and brings in new sounding tunes “Hardbeat” and “Body Popping” into his repertoire. There’s also a couple of songs with a Reuben feel to it in “Waterloo Teeth” and “Hell In A Fast Car with Mississippi” reaching back to “Muscle Memory“. “Shuffle” is Jamie Lenman’s newest release which is a covers album of sorts. Never one to do things the usual way, the covers are all music from TV and Film. “Killer”, originally by Adamski and Seal, is covered in a slow punk style but is instantly recognisable with Lenman pulling off the classic falsettos. There’s covers of The Beatles “Tomorrow Never Knows” and a very energetic and emotional “Hey Jude” on the album. Also the theme tune to children’s cartoon Popeye – this one is not so recognisable!
I’ll end this with one last song – this time it isn’t actually on any album. Kind of. It’s a secret track – If you play the 11th track (Muscle) and the 22nd track (Memory) on the album “Muscle Memory” at the same time, you have the title track. Jamie announced this a year after the album was released, saying only a few people had worked it out. He uploaded the track to YouTube. Things like this is what really puts Jamie Lenman a part from anyone else. The inventiveness, the ingenuity, the constant re-imagining of everything he does. We are lucky to have such a talented musician in the British rock scene.