When I interviewed Jamie Lenman 4 years ago, he told readers to "Watch this space!" if they wanted to hear some solo material. Well, it's been a lot of watching, but today we've got what we were waiting for. The promotional bumf is extremely polished: Jamie's gone for the waxed-moustache look (I don't think that's a viable look, but he pulls it off - or rather, I wish he would); an album release on CD and vinyl is planned; a new website has already been rolled out, and the new video is seamlessly and stylishly directed. In other words, this hasn't come about sketchily. Fans have spent the last 5 years examining and debating every bale of tumbleweed passing through the desert Reuben left behind, watching that space with hawks' eyes, so this onslaught of information was a shock to the senses. Within half a day, the new video has been shared by over half of the people who've liked it on Facebook - there may not be millions of them, but these people are seriously dedicated.
So can the new tracks impress fans who've waited 5 years for Jamie to put down his sketching pencils (he was an illustrator for the Guardian for a while) and pick up a guitar? Well, primarily, the surprise is the genre Lenman's chosen - or should that be genres? His new album appears to be half hardcore, half "jazz-folk", and the new video (below) showcases both styles to great effect. The wit on the second track, 'Pretty Please', is characteristic Lenman - with simple lyrics, a light-hearted edge and unabashed catchiness, it's more 'pop' than anything Lenman's released before, but anyone who listened to 'Deadly Lethal Ninja Assassin' on the last album could have sensed something shifting. It's very different though. If we're to believe Jamie actually played as many instruments on the track as the video suggests, then he's branched out dramatically - from drummer, guitarist and vocalist to double-bass aficionado and trumpet player? Bravo.
The cry of the track is "validate me! Oh pretty please. Validate me, yeah." It's probably no coincidence that Xtra Mile & Jamie have chosen to release that particular song as a single. So far, the Youtube comments and wider response seem to validate him very nicely.
The track opening the video is a lot more like Jamie as manifested on Reuben tracks. The atmospheres of the two halves neatly represent the singer's seeming dual personality - he's brooding, dark and able to inject real anger into recordings, but (previously outside of the studio) also has an immense sense of humour and playfulness. See what you think, anyway. For me, Maggsy321 summarised the feelings of today perfectly: "The only thing that could ruin one of the happiest days of my life is the stupid fucking moustache."