Jamie Lenman – ‘Devolver’

By Jay Hampshire

Growing up is a difficult thing. We struggle to face the seemingly insurmountable challenges of adulthood, equipped with only a flimsy understanding of how an increasingly cruel world works, and a bone-deep yearning for an easier, more carefree time. Growing up as a musician is arguably a similar process – to move on from adolescent feelings and themes and to settle into a more mature groove, unafraid to bare all of your many and varied influences without fear of reproach nor embarrassment.

Jamie Lenman is an artist whose journey into aural maturity has been preserved for all to see, cast in amber like a mosquito awaiting our eager interest. Like a musically minded John Hammond, one can extract the Lenman’s sonic DNA from his larval stage onwards.

From his suspended adolescence in much missed Surrey-based post-hardcore trio Reuben (whose retrospective popularity seems at odds with their tragically overlooked status at the time) to his solo double album debut ‘Muscle Memory’, an album of Jekyll-and-Hydian duality, we come to ‘Devolver’; and without a doubt, this record is Lenman’s coming of age.

From the bouncy percussion and near-mumbled direct address of ‘Hardbeat’, it soon becomes clear that this is the most diverse lug-hole botherer from the Camberleyite to date. Looping electro percussion, subtle harmonies, broad dynamics and organic growth through repetition are paramount, opening out into a sing-along worthy refrain.

‘Waterloo Teeth’ strides with bass heavy swagger, skipping snares and a lurching atonality emerging from a wall of sound worthy of a less murderous Phil Spector. ‘Personal’ rides gleefully on the back of a pumped up, sultry groove, with plenty of stabbing chords and chugging drives throw in for good measure, peppered with Lenman’s trademark acerbic self-deprecation.

‘Body Popping’ paces ahead with a running bassline and droning vocals, railing against the entertainment industry with the repetition of “if you cannot do a fucking thing/you can still get big”, the staccato vocals constantly rhythmic, ending glossily with a rising choir of harmonies.

‘Comfort Animal’ is super smooth, lush strumming and wearied vocals nestling into moody bass and phasing piano chords, a brief caesura. ‘Mississippi’ is a big ol’ chugfest, thick as fuck as it lumbers and labours under the threatening weight of slabby chords and bellowed vocals that act as an impromptu spelling lesson. ‘Hell In A Fast Car’ is more upbeat, shuffling drums adding a danceable tilt under the phasing synths and spanking snares.

‘I Don’t Know Anything’ is pure filth; a dancehall-esque layer of bass scuzz and funky strums channeling Chic, a rhythmic spoken word section worthy of Kate Nash and a carnival drum line closer worthy of Notting Hill. ‘Bones’ contrasts Lenman’s delicate vocals with an ugly bass hook and waltzing piano vamp, mournful brass and messy guitar solos adding to the sense that perhaps this is the least realised track of the bunch.

‘All Of England Is A City’ pogos with rhythm, head-voice vocals and twanging guitar coalescing into a stomping indie crescendo. Closer ‘Devolver’ slowly develops; Lenman’s typical honest, confessional lyrics are layered with his inner Phil Collins in mind, soft, loungey piano contends with burbling electro, tension building and exploding into jarring hardcore stutters, morphing into sweepingly cinematic chords before dropping out into fading synths and soft croons.

While ‘Muscle Memory’ saw Lenman tackle a diverse spread of his favourite genres, ‘Devolver’ sees him effortlessly combine them. He fuses elements with skill, and although the heavier sections are still there, they’ve had their edges smoothed off a touch. This, combined with his ear for a soaring chorus and danceable lick, elevates him out of the cult darling pool he currently inhabits, and may well see him garnering a wider appeal. ‘Devolver’, paradoxically, is a timely evolution. It sees a musician take what they need to from their past, couple it with time and experience, and produce something confident and assured. Lenman proves that growing up don’t have to be a drag.

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