Xtra Mile Recodings
11 November 2013
Remember MTV2? It used to be pretty good back in the day. Of course like most things, it rapidly went downhill and started playing the same Bowling for Soup and Sum 41 songs, but it used to be a cool place to find out about new music before the internet came along and took all the effort out of everything. Imagine finding out about a new band from the telly? Imagine telling some youth about those halcyon days, while you bounce them on your knee, sucking away on a Werther’s Original while they ignore you, their head buried in their iPad looking up gonzo happyslap violence-porn or whatever.
One of the bands that the younger, less jaded me found whilst perusing MTV2 was Reuben. Reuben were a cut above. Reuben had the riffs, but they also had the pop hooks and funny, self-deprecating lyrics. After releasing three excellent albums and the best Christmas song ever they sadly disbanded, but main songwriter and frontman Jamie Lenman has mercifully returned, with a roar in his throat, a spring in his step and a sweet moustache.
And a chip on his shoulder, if Muscle Memory is anything to go by.
It’s a double album. Wait, come back. He hasn’t gone on a prog journey up his bottom. Muscle Memory is a miraculously filler-free record of two very distinct halves.The first half (Muscle) finds the man at his most incendiary. He sounds pissed basically, and it’s resulted in a gloriously violent, batshit heavy CD. Reuben were no slouches when it came to kicking things up, but Lenman’s on another level here. This is bracing stuff, and legitimately heavier and angrier than lots of stuff parading as metal.
When singers in rock bands go solo it usually results in something a bit balls (hello, Roddy Woomble), but the opposite’s happened here. This is Will Haven heavy in bits. ‘Shower of Scorn’ is even reminiscent of Around The Fur-era Deftones, and Muscle has a churning Eyehategod thing going for it. Where Lenman has the one up on most is his alt rock leanings. There’s always been a bit of Failure and Molly McGuire (look them up) about Lenman’s stuff, which is a good thing. This isn’t just rage for the sake of it. It’s rage with hooks.
The second half of the album (Memory) is very different. It’d have to be, as two straight CDs of blistering hatred and riffs would be too much for even the staunchest of hessians, so Lenman calms things down a lot. This is the quirkier side of Lenman, the self-deprecating, confessional aspects of him in full effect, replete with ukuleles, jazz bands, bluegrass and warm melodies. Some of it’s lovely, especially ‘Little Lives’. ‘Pretty Please’ meanwhile is a big band stomper, with a big old key change and the catchiest chorus on the album by a mile.
Lenman’s done brilliantly basically. Muscle Memory is a timely reminder that he’s one of the best, most diverse artists in the British isles, and we went without his potent mix of aggro, songwriting nous and humour for far too long. In an ideal world, this’ll be bothering album charts across the world and he’ll be headlining Download. Along with Dying Fetus, obviously.
Sounds Like: The singer from Reuben going apeshit.
Standout Tracks: Shower of Scorn, Little Lives