Jamie Lenman
Muscle Memory


4.0
excellent

Review

by VultureToes USER (1 Reviews)
June 19th, 2014 | 13 replies | 679 views


Release Date: 11/04/2013 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Half brutal, discordant aggression, half catchy acoustic folk. A masterful display of varied songwriting ability, though perhaps a little difficult for those not a fan of the heavier end of the musical spectrum.

1 of 1 thought this review was well written

Jamie Lenman is the ex-frontman of English post-hardcore cult legends Reuben, who disintegrated in 2008, to the dismay of fans. He had been more or less silent for five years, before announcing with little warning that he would be releasing a double album as a solo artist.

While it would arguably be productive to view Muscle Memory outside of the context of Reuben, that band is inevitably the metre stick against which this artistic work will be measured.

What Reuben did best was seamlessly blending the melodic and the aggressive. All the more interesting, then, is the direction Lenman took on Muscle Memory - a sort of Jekyll-and-Hydesque deconstruction of Reuben’s trademark sound.

The first disc of the album, Muscle, is a series of polemics in which Lenman casts his withering gaze on social media, the 24-hour news, the death of Michael Jackson and himself. The vocals are screamed, the riffs are heavy and uncomfortable to listen to, the drums are pummelling and the tone is a biting, sardonic fury at everything and everyone.

There is no shelter or respite; there are, perhaps, 30 seconds of sung vocals on the entire disc before Lenman returns to his buzzsaw howls and screams, punctuated only by the thundering drums and discordant, distorted guitar riffs. It is, at times, genuinely hard to listen to.

Some highlights of the first disc are One Of My Eyes Is A Clock; in which Lenman rants about the all-pervading nature of social media, and All The Things You Hate About Me, I Hate Them Too; a distorted, funhouse mirror version of Reuben's Good Luck - grating perspective of his approach to personal relationships. On the solo version of this track, a wailing alto saxophone only adds to the cacophony.

Muscle’s strengths and weaknesses are really two sides of the same coin. Each sound and word ooze Lenman's fury at himself and the world around him. It's difficult at times to push on through the disc, especially with the knowledge that each track will hammer on at your eardrums like the last one did. Touches like the saxophone I mentioned in the last paragraph would have gone a long way to give each track a more distinct character.

Memory, the second disc, is a completely different animal. A collection of largely acoustic tracks, songs meanders from lazy country to big band swing. Jamie’s songwriting diversity is on full show as he transforms from the enraged, cynical misanthrope of the first half to a more caring, gentle soul; lyrics touch often on his relationship with his father and wife, and the gradual progress of life. Where Muscle is massive, heavy, hard and cold, Memory is warm and gentle, but often subdued.

Strings, horns and banjos are applied liberally and skillfully over the various tracks, but there is also a great deal of solo acoustic guitar work. There are some touchingly personal notes on Memory as well - Saturday, a short track featuring Jamie alone with his guitar, talks about his father's death, and I Ain't Your Boy paints an incredible picture of a man who feels like a stranger in his own life. Lenman's talent for writing really shines on these tracks.

There are a couple of songs, it must be said, that don't come off quite as well. If You Have To Ask You'll Never Know and Little Lives, to me at least, lacked the focus and storytelling that characterises Lenman's writing, and paled in comparison to For God's Sake and Pretty Please.

Muscle Memory falls a little short of a coherent release. There isn't a great deal to link the two sides, and most listeners will gravitate to one or the other. However, both sides are exceptionally well constructed, a masterfully orchestrated flood of emotion through the speakers. I hope that Lenman has more where this came from.


user ratings (19)
Chart.
4.1
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
VultureToes
June 19th 2014



4 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

C&C appreciated

BMDrummer
June 19th 2014



3880 Comments


Alright first review, but this is like a track by track in disguise

Digging: Svffer - Lies We Live

VultureToes
June 19th 2014



4 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Fair criticism, I wanted to talk specifically about a couple of songs that I thought were representative of each side, do you think they're unnecessary? Or should I just avoid that at all costs?

BMDrummer
June 19th 2014



3880 Comments


That's fair I guess, I would recommend looking around at other reviews if you want some more help though

protonjon
June 19th 2014



76 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This is far better than anything Reuben ever recorded. My wife loves 'memory', whilst I prefer 'muscle'.

Digging: Brontide - Artery

protonjon
June 19th 2014



76 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thank you for reviewing this btw.

NorwichScene
June 20th 2014



1405 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Excellent album

Digging: Flood of Red - Throw

VultureToes
June 20th 2014



4 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

You're welcome protonjon, though I think this faces stiff competition from In Nothing We Trust. I've just made some edits, trying to whip this review into shape.

TheMoreira
July 12th 2014



6769 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

As this review is now, it's one great review. Pos'd cheers

And thank you for reviewing this mang. Also welcome to the site

Digging: 68 - In Humor and Sadness

Mall
July 12th 2014



606 Comments


pretty sweet album

second half is da bomb

Digging: Nirvana - Nevermind

TheMoreira
July 12th 2014



6769 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I have this at a 4 now, and for sure that comes with the help of some great tunes on the 2nd CD. But all in all, as a whole i still prefer CD1 over how solid it is. Hard choice, but when i think about it CD2 has such a weird structure and how some song come in so weirdly and even wrong at times, i make up my mind.

4.5 - 5 level songs on this though: Fizzy Blood, All The Things You Hate About Me ; Shotgun House, It's Hard To Be A Gentleman and Pretty Please

VultureToes
July 13th 2014



4 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks man :D

Yeah, I think the pacing might be a little off on the second album. For what it is, I think the first
is marginally better put together.

TheMoreira
July 13th 2014



6769 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Agreed, and it's aight man m/



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