Legends are not born, they are created, as the saying goes. This is the same in every creative field, from film, to art and photography, and of course, music. Exactly who are legends nowadays is up for debate. Some can be justified easily by looking at their world wide presence – people like David Bowie, and Elton John. Sometimes, however, you need to look closer. Creatives can be found who not only inspired pockets of a generation, but also continue to release content that inspires and intrigues. Local legends, that perhaps are only known in a particular country. With all that said, Jamie Lenman falls into this category.
Emerging in the early 2000’s with the unparalleled, and underrated, post punk band Reuben, the trio made waves in the UK, battling a burgeoning career alongside the need to remain financially stable. It was their honesty with which they told this side of their story that captured people’s admiration, as well as their incredibly written and played songs. Three albums in, however, and the band disbanded, leaving people wondering what would happen next. It was be almost ten years before Lenman returned to music, releasing double album Muscle Memory. Half a jazz-metal fusion, half folk, the album reestablished Lenman as a solo artist, and now, almost another decade later, he has released his fifth solo effort, The Atheist.
This Is All There Is opens the album with a bite that calls back to Lenman’s earlier work. Lyrically, it homes in on the theme of the album, comparing believing in heaven and hell to believing in Planet Cyrpton from the DC universe. Despite its power, there’s no anger or malice to the song, the chorus spreading a hopeful message that although this is all there is, we should embrace it while we’re here. Following on from this, Talk Hard almost sums up the previous song. In it, Lenman talks of being able to say what you feel, even if it’s difficult to. It is a call to be bold, something that the album is all about. Hospital Tree is a acknowledgement of the NHS, all the proceeds the song makes going to the health service. It’s an ode to the nurses and hospital workers that remain there for us, even at the time of year where they should be with their own families.
The latter half of the record sees Lenman explore his rock roots, the ying and yang of songs My Anchor and Bad Friend, one talking of devoting yourself entirely to one person, and the latter speaking of needing to be there for the friends that stick by you. The Wedding Ring is a rare example of a solely piano ballad. Recorded as though at a distance, the track has an eeriness to it, but also a gravitas, coming from the feeling that you’re listening through a closed door, to something you shouldn’t be. Closer War of Doubt grows slowly like the looming beast it is, building, rather than exploding, into a thoughtfully written bridge about fighting what we cannot know. It’s a fitting end conceptually to the album.
Lenman has shown himself to be an innovative and creatively rich musician and songwriter, but The Atheist sees him on solid ground. By no way is this a negative, however. This collection is by far his most cohesive since 2017’s Devolver, and lyrically he has smartly pushed the albums concepts to their most intriguing points. It’s a gorgeously rich, perfectly recorded and mixed, beautifully written rock record, that deserves more attention.
Writer and Musician, Ryan Bulbeck has been published with a number of online publications, and has worked with a myriad of great artists, both as a performer, and as a producer. His most recent band The 295 are still active, playing shows around the UK.