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Muscle Memory – Jamie Lenman

Muscle Memory – Jamie Lenman

musclememoryReleased: 2013

For those familiar with the output of Reuben, the post-hardcore band currently on indefinite hiatus, the debut solo album Muscle Memory by frontman Jamie Lenman will come as something as a surprise. Not least because he seemed to have fallen out of love with the music business five years ago when he put the band on hold and has since carved a successful career as an illustrator for the likes of Dr Who Magazine and The Guardian.

But Lenman is back, with the surprising but entirely welcome solo album that is Muscle Memory. It’s a fitting title for a man who came back from out of the shadows and sounds like he has never been away. Except his style has matured, and his music is all the better for it.

Disc 1 features the hard-hitting alternative metal anthems he built a career on sounding at times as monolithic as System Of A Down. Opening with The Six Fingered Hand followed by Fizzy Blood, the opening duo sets the precedent for disc 1: a collection of hard-hitting and relentless tunes that will occupy the stereos of metalheads for weeks to come. No stand out tunes, but plenty of ball busting riffery: it’s solid stuff.

It is the second disc of this record that is truly the revelation. Here Lenman channels his inner folk and blues on stripped back banjo and acoustic guitar tunes that will make you wonder why it has taken him this long to do. Indeed, the album cover featuring the perfect moustachioed gent gently strumming his banjolele sums up this second disc, and puts it something at odds with the first half of this double album.

For a record company this album must be an absolute nightmare to try and market, but somehow it works. The Reuben purists will be kept happy by the metal half while those seeking something a little different will be pleasantly surprised by the laid back charm of country tunes such as If You Have To Ask You’ll Never Know. Perhaps more crucially, this second half proves just how popular folk and country has become again. If only all debut albums were as bold and eclectic as this.

★★★★

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