EP REVIEW: Jamie Lenman – ‘Iknowyouknowiknow’

Artwork for Jamie Lenman’s ‘Iknowyouknowiknow’ - a segment of a map in a cartoonish style

Don’t be thinking too deeply into this one; this isn’t another sudden career overhaul for Jamie Lenman already. Rather, it’s more a continuation of what he was doing on his last album The Atheist, and in a rather literal sense at that. It’s basically a second helping of that album, made from songs originating from its sessions but didn’t fit the flow or profile of the full-length. And as Lenman himself has already stressed, they aren’t just less-good runoffs either. You’re inclined to believe him too, given his pedigree both with Reuben and his solo work, and even if The Atheist’s slide into more straightforward, sometimes lower-stakes indie-rock wasn’t up there with his best, Lenman’s permanently high floor tends to prevent most of his work from being an abject failure.

And really, The Atheist kind of feels like the perfect album to have this sort of companion EP next to it (or in terms of the artwork, literally inset with it). The low restrictions and general accessibility do a lot to accommodate, something that Iknowyouknowiknow seemingly takes advantage of by having a bit of different vibe of its own, without fully cutting ties from its older sibling. It has moments that are bit more pared-back and embracing of folk-rock, which Lenman’s distinctively everyman voice and style gels unsurprisingly well with. Even as an ostensible odds-and-ends package, the cohesion of a ‘proper’ release still manages to sneak through, and with a tighter EP format, it might just pip its predecessor in terms of sticking power.

There’s no real quantifiable metric for that, or even what feels like any drastic shake-up in quality. Simply, as a collection of songs, Iknowyouknowiknow just goes down that bit smoother overall. Words Of Love is the immediate standout with its low, rippling guitars and bass and decadent strings behind them, before the earthen folk rollick of Crazy Horse and slightly scruffier lo-fi acoustics of run right home. They go a bit more outside the norm than what The Atheist was most steadily anchored to, and that’s almost entirely to their advantage. Maybe ‘eccentricity’ is the wrong word, but it’s close in feel to where Lenman is at his most creatively fruitful, as the indie boundaries are made more slack once again, and a free-flowing style is prioritised. The EP actually ends with an acoustic reprieve of This Town Will Never Let Us Go—already one of The Athiest’s highlights—and with the rougher strumming and Lenman refusing to curtail his bellow, that’s exactly where this EP’s feel crystallises the strongest.

It carries a very Frank Turner-esque sensibility throughout. In the sound, the parallels are obvious, even for the brand of alt-rock that Turner has often found favour in, but it’s deeper in the mood and especially the songwriting that that comes to pass the most. It’s not surprising given the two’s work as contemporaries in the 2000s, but it’s a little stark how cleanly the similarities line up. Especially on Crazy Horse and I Done Things I Ain’t Proud Of, rooted in a traditionalism and classicism (right down the references to classic musicians in the latter), it feels like its own thing, removed from the vast majority of rock and indie around it. And just like with Turner for whom that’s typically been a boon, Lenman is unquestionably adept at making it work. He’s not concerned with flash or pomp, as a humble delivery and his oft-unpolished, always-charming vocal style have made aware since the beginning. Moreover, his keen songwriting ear hasn’t diminished in the slightest; the assertions of these tracks not being merely cutting-room scraps feels perfectly validated, given how towering the hooks of Words Of Love and Crazy Horse in particular are.

It really speaks to Lenman’s prowess as a musician that Iknowyouknowiknow turns out this strongly. Whereas so many others would’ve made this seem like an overextension or an obviously lesser coda, neither of those are true here. It’s another rock-solid collection all the way through, buoyed by Lenman’s unshakable affability, alt-rock lifer status, and comfort with following his own path entirely. Rarely does an artist this far in continue to not only abide by those criteria, but also flourish within them, but that’s Lenman in a nutshell. He’s a true treasure in UK alternative music, to the extent in which this somewhat throwaway EP can still be seen as another runaway success.

For fans of: Frank Turner, Biffy Clyro, The Automatic

‘Iknowyouknowiknow’ by Jamie Lenman is released on 5th May on Big Scary Monsters.

Words by Luke Nuttall

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