In true Lenman fashion, expectations continue to be shattered…
Hardbeat opens with a lub-dub, of course, synonymous with the connotations that spring to mind when hearing the title of this song. The overall emphasis throughout the track is the ‘beat’. Similarly to Mississippi (the lead single from the upcoming LP, Devolver), the pace established at the inception of the track is carried throughout the entirety. It’s somewhat pedestrian, not in the pejorative sense, if anything it serves to increase anticipation – anyone who is familiar with Lenman’s music would surely be aware that something will give – we wait eagerly for the ‘hard’. That sounds dodgy, but you get it right?
This poise is what sets Hardbeat apart from the other songs in Lenman’s back catalogue. While one can certainly draw comparisons with Mississippi, as I previously did, this track doesn’t have the same tenacity, the same distorted sludge and in that sense, it’s entirely different. The vocals begin as spoken word, again a first for Lenman (if you exclude the ‘rappy’ interludes in the likes of Reuben’s We’re All Going Home In An Ambulance), which offers up an incredibly stripped back dynamic, it really gives the song a personal feel.
Lenman gradually crawls into a sing within the chorus, which is mad catchy. The simplicity makes it incredibly infectious, the repetition of the solitary line that eludes to the track’s title ensures that the listener has an easy means by which they can connect to the song. After a handful of bars, you’ll be humming along, if not mumbling the lyrics in a flat attempt to mimic Lenman’s musings. The final act of the song sees the timbre that had lingered in the background cease and a guitar and drums (bread and butter) embrace the fore. The riff offers a nice respite from the persisting pulse of Lenman’s Hardbeat.
All the while the track progresses through the various sections, the pace stands, resolute. It’s certainly an interesting approach and I think that the excited anticipation that I previously described is the preferred reaction. On the other hand, one may find the constant ticking of the ‘lub-dub’ and the ‘beep-bop’ to be irritating or tedious. Personally, I appreciate the fact that Lenman isn’t resting on his laurels, he could easily twat up the distortion and churn out riff after riff. But it’s too easy. Instead, we are challenged, forced to ask ourselves whether we like his ‘new stuff’ or not. If it turns out you do, then the payoff is even higher after you’ve really thought about the music.
I have no doubt that Hardbeat will be divisive, and whether you’re a fan or not, you must certainly appreciate that it’s an incredibly interesting track. I certainly haven’t sounded anything like it, and that should be commended. I can’t wait to hear the rest of Devolver and I hope that Jamie Lenman continues to stretch the prescriptive parameters of his genre.