The ever-versatile Jamie Lenman shows us why variety truly is the spice of life.

Off the back of Lenman’s previous record, Devolver, he told WaveByte “every record that comes out is another shade perspective on my work that I think people can grab hold of. I wouldn’t say that Devolver particularly represents a direction that other things will follow…”. No kidding. Perhaps ironically, that album was delivered in contrast to Jamie Lenman’s solo debut – the vacillating Muscle Memory – in the sense that Devolver can be experienced as a standalone body of work that serves to further establish one’s sound as an artist i.e. the archetypal LP.

Never content with sitting still, Shuffle is a mixed bag of covers and re-imaginings of some of Leman’s favourite pieces across a number of mediums. For example, the album’s lead single is a hardcore cover version of the Popeye theme tune. It’s excellently unrelenting and easily the most aggressive number on offer. The following single is a synth-heavy cover of Adamski & Seal’s Killer that croons through the verses, only to exit in a typically explosive fashion.

A guitar-based adaptation of the theme from the masterpiece that is Martin Scorsese’s masterpiece Taxi Driver reminds us just how accomplished Lenman is with a six-string. Rarely before has his technical prowess been allowed to take centre stage and to hear it in this rendition is a treat. Another highlight comes in his cover of Annie Lennox’s Love Song For A Vampire. The heavily reverberated staccato chords coupled with Lenman’s hushed musings make for an utterly haunting experience. Towards the end of the track we get to hear Lenman’s vocals pushed to their absolute limit – it’s visceral, raw and unquestionably brilliant.

Of course, the real triumph when it comes to Lenman as a musician is his sheer creativity and innate ability to offer up something different at each time of asking. Whether you’re into The Beatles, Herman Melville or Ancient Greece, there is something here for everyone. Just hit shuffle. (Shuffle – 4/5 Bytes)

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The overarching theme of variety is something that also transcends into the latest ventures of this artist on the big stage. 2017 saw the introduction of Lenmania – an all-day mini-festival showcasing some fantastic acts like The St Pierre Snake Invasion, Fizzy Blood and (of course) Jamie Lenman himself. While a huge success, the event proved to also be a massive undertaking and so the proposal of Lenmania II was initially met with some reluctance. Nonetheless, 2 years later and here we find ourselves in the o2 Academy Islington, embarking on The Road To Lenmania.

Opening with a trademark acoustic set, Lenman himself jaunts through a fan-picked setlist featuring mainly hits from Lenman’s previous ventures in Reuben. The crowd’s contribution to Cities on Fire and Good Luck was unforgettably spine-tingling and was met with humbled grins and sincere thanks from their author.

False Advertising blew away any cobwebs that may have been lingering around as the weekend drew to a close. Their 90’s grunge dynamic coupled with modern pop songwriting sensibilities proved popular amongst the crowd and got heads nodding accordingly. Frontwoman Jen Hingley’s ability to switch between the poised and forceful kept the audience on their toes and only amped up an already enjoyable watch.

Following False Advertising was the eccentric riot that is Frauds. Think of an unhinged Flight Of The Conchords that have discovered crash cymbals and distortion pedals. Chris Francombe and Mike Alvarez’ ramblings between songs prompted hearty chuckles from onlookers and made it impossible not to dig the brilliantly erratic cacophony that followed.

Penultimately, Orchards. Their brand of upbeat alt-pop is infectious. Sam Rushton’s crisp and clean guitar tones draped with reverb and delay creat e an airy atmosphere that allows frontwoman Lucy Evers’ vocals to dance around to their heart’s content. Bolstered by stellar backing vocals from Dan Hane and Will Lee-Lewis’ bursting drum beats, Orchards are a complete package and undoubtedly the real deal. Do not let this one pass you by.

When ex-Reuben colleague Guy Davis strolled onstage, every face in the room had a beaming grin plastered over it. The cherry on top of what was already a superb evening. A reunion that many had longed for; there was no rust hindering Davis’ hinges whatsoever. In fact, in addition to providing a customarily monstrous performance on the tubs, he more than proved his mettle as a vocalist in his own right, expertly navigating the harmony parts to Lenman’s tracks both old and new throughout the full performance.

With a setlist littered with hits that span across extensive discography, it’s pretty hard to go wrong. This was proven when, for the first time in the evening, the crowd absolutely detonated upon hearing the riff to Hell In A Fast Car and rarely let up until the show was drawn to a close with Devolver. The brand-new tracks from Shuffle that were selected to be showcased were Killer, Popeye and She Bop, all of which slotted in seamlessly and felt like they had been a part of Lenman’s act for ages. (The Road To Lenmania – 4.5/5 Bytes)

Aaron Jackson

The Road To Lenmania is in celebration/preparation of the highly-anticipated Lenmania II which will take place at Lenman’s spiritual home 2000trees festival. On the Thursday, a whole stage will be dedicated to Lenmania II which will feature all acts on the Road To Lenmania plus Conjurer, Loathe and the main support act TBA. Be sure to get your tickets for this year’s 2000trees HERE.

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