Jamie Lenman – ‘IknowyouknowIknow

By Ash Bebbington

It feels like an understatement to say that Jamie Lenman is not an artist that follows the path most travelled in his creative endeavours. ‘Muscle Memory’, his first solo album after the dissolution of his band Reuben, was a double album, one disc containing his heaviest material to date, the other disc his most tender. He followed up perhaps the best album of his career to date – 2017’s ‘Devolver’ – with a charmingly bonkers covers album, ‘Shuffle’, that included a grindcore cover of ‘Popeye the Sailor Man’. Fans of his work have since come to expect the unexpected, and that’s certainly the case with his latest EP ‘IknowyouknowIknow’, which Lenman bills as ‘side three’ of his superb 2022 album ‘The Atheist’.

The songs on ‘IknowyouknowIknow’ were all considered for inclusion on ‘The Atheist’, but Lenman is keen to stress they aren’t merely afterthoughts or – in his words – “the ones that weren’t good enough for the album”. Instead, they’re the songs that didn’t fit there, but Lenman still felt were deserving of release in their own right.

The more you dig into the facts around the relationship between Lenman’s latest two releases, the more you realise just how much thought has gone into it. The physical version of the EP is designed to fit inside the sleeve of the Atheist LP so they can be stored – and played – together. The final song on the EP is an acoustic version of ‘This Town Will Never Let Us Go’, a track that appears on ‘The Atheist’. This was done intentionally in the running order so that when the two releases are listened to together, it is a reprise of the version that’s on the album.

Indeed, some of the tracks came so close to appearing on ‘The Atheist’ that they were only removed at the last minute. ‘Crazy Horse’ – probably the EP’s standout track – came so close to appearing on the album that a cover with the track’s name was designed. It was only taken off right before the LP went to press.

With the above in mind, it’s worth dissecting the latest EP both on its own merits and as part of a greater whole when listened to directly following ‘The Atheist’. On its own merit, this is a brilliant collection of songs in which Lenman showcases a more tender side than he has on many of his recent releases. When consumed as ‘side three’ of a greater whole, it works brilliantly as a larger body of work. Had Lenman decided to release these songs as part of ‘The Atheist’ proper, it would’ve added even more quality to what is already a fantastic record.

Lenman has always been an artist that wears his heart on his sleeve lyrically, and that’s certainly the case here. ‘I Done Things I Ain’t Proud Of’ is one such song, a lament to regret over past misdeeds. There’s a hint of Lenman’s famous wit, however, as he repents his sins not to God – as you might expect – but to his musical heroes, Paul McCartney and Freddie Mercury. Sonically, the track has a bluesy Americana feel, and is reminiscent of the acoustic side of ‘Muscle Memory’.

Jamie Lenman is one of the UK’s finest songwriters, a relentlessly creative individual who constantly pushes himself to evolve his sound and attempt new things. ‘IknowyouknowIknow’ is a brilliant display of Lenman at his tender, melodic best and is both an EP that hardcore fans will relish while also providing a great entry point into his storied canon for people who are unfamiliar with his work.

ASH BEBBINGTON

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