TL;DR – Devolver is a refreshingly inventive album from the frontman that brought us Reuben. Bringing the two halves of ‘Muscle Memory’ back together, Jamie Lenman pushes his songwriting skills further than we’ve ever seen before in this modern masterpiece. (★★★★★)
Those that have read my post on albums that impacted me as a teenager will know that I have great respect for Jamie Lenman as a songwriter from his days in Reuben so I was excited to hear that he was releasing more new music this year.
Jamie Lenman is possibly one of the most underrated, yet creatively individual songwriters to have graced the British rock scene. As Ex-Frontman to the now dissolved noughties Hard Rock/Post-Hardcore band, Reuben, you could tell that he wasn’t one to shy away from experimenting within their genre.
After spending a few years focussing on his career in illustration, Jamie announced he would be returning to music and releasing a two-part album, Muscle Memory (★★★★½) in which he wanted to explore the opposite ends of his musical spectrum; heaviness without melody and melody without the heaviness. It is this that has led him down the path to Devolver.
Devolver manages to bring the two halves of Muscle Memory back together into something so aurally beautiful that Jamie Lenman may have created his most perfect record yet.
We start Devolver with the track Hardbeat which opens with some quietly looped beats and Jamie practically mumbling lyrics over the top. As the track builds more layers kick in until we’re left with a solid drum beat that is extended from the single release. This kicks into Waterloo Teeth with its classic Reuben-esque riff. Add in what I consider to be Jamie’s now trademark layered vocals, and you’ve got a hit in the making. Continuing with the harder riffs, Personal has a hard groove all the way through and a heavy chorus that makes me just want to dance.
However, Body Popping is where you hear Jamie first try out a truly new style that we haven’t heard from him before. We hear the track build behind what appears to be Jamie’s commentary on the modern music industry as he reels off a list of things that people are seemingly unable to do but still manage to make it big.
Body Popping: If you cannot do a fucking thing, you can still get big!
Comfort Animal has a surprisingly calm Biffy Clyro feel to it as the album slows before launching back in to lead single, Mississppi. Those who have heard Muscle Memory will recognise the “M-I-DOUBLE S-I-DOUBLE S-I-P,P-I” that was used on the track Shotgun House from the ‘Memory’ side of his 2 disc release. Jamie has admitted that this was carried through on purpose and the track is about the bad memories you’d rather try and let go of. In this case, it was the death of his father just a few years earlier while recording his debut album.
We get back down to Dan Kavanagh’s recognisable drum beats with Hell in a Fast Car. With classic Lenman vocals and simple but catchy riffs, this is one of the stand-out tracks of the album.
I Don’t Know Anything opens with what can only be described as a 70’s funk bass line that continues through the rest of the song with new elements once again being added throughout the track before changing time signature at the end for a raucous drum-outro that leads us into a heavily synthesized, film noir lounge-bar style Bones. Lenman croons along with his dulcet tones before escalating the song to a finale that could rival Matt from Muse. I would pen this as the most atmospheric song that Jamie Lenman has written so far.
The album moves to a close with its final two tracks. First up is All of England is a City which once again give us some classic Jamie Lenman mid-tempo rock music that he has come to perfect so well.
It’s taken me a few listens to realise it, but the closing track, which is also the title track, Devolver, is something of beauty. As you’ve probably come to realise, Jamie likes to start his tracks small before launching into something much bigger. The closing track opens with a simple drum beat, bass and Jamie’s voice. However, as the track moves along Jamie harmonises such a beautiful combination of synth, drums, vocals and bass into something that sounds almost bigger than the album as a whole.
For anyone who hasn’t heard of Jamie Lenman before, Devolver may sound like a collection of songs that don’t really go together. However, if you’ve followed Jamie since his days with Reuben, you’ll find that this feels like the album that he always wanted to make.
Jamie Lenman has truly outdone himself with this release and it sounds like there are only bigger and better things to come. This truly is a masterclass in modern songwriting.
Devolver is OUT NOW and available through Big Scary Monster along with all your other regular music retailers and streaming services.
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