Anyone who has seen Jamie Lenman play live will know he loves nothing more than to pull out a surprise cover or two. Whether it’s a faithful rendition of ‘Especially for You’ with his wife or songs by Madness and Queen at a festival or even a famous TV theme tune like ‘Home and Away’, he takes real joy in sharing the songs that shaped his life. With ‘Shuffle’, he’s achieving a lifelong dream of releasing an entire album full of covers and reinterpretations – and it’s not just music: he reads a chapter from Moby Dick; covers a song from a Wolverine SNES game; and even recreates a scene from his favourite short film with an actual Doctor.
Produced by Space, the record starts with Jamie’s reinterpretation of ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ by The Beatles (who else?). Although before the crunching guitar riffs and thunderous drums come in, there is some flicking between channels and intros – this ‘Shuffle’ as you may guess from the title of the album, becomes a defining trait of the LP. The song itself finds John, Paul, George and Ringo’s masterpiece given a punky makeover with crowd whoops halfway through and hearty shouting in its final throes. Following straight after is a Nine Inch Nails-esque cover of early ’90s banger ‘Killer’ by Adamski and Seal which finds Jamie experimenting with layers of different tones of vocal. There’s another curveball following this with a take on Bernard Hermann’s famous score for the Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro film ‘Taxi Driver; it keeps the noir feel and traffic noise but adds in jazz-infused drume and potent guitar solos.
‘You’re the Boss’ is the scene from a short film with Jamie and Paul McGann taking over the roles of Bill and Jimbo. It’s a short murder mystery with hearty swearing and an unnerving aura of darkness: ‘That’s good. Cameras are always easier than people’… There’s another change of pace with ‘Song of Seikilos’, which is a preserved composition of Ancient Greek music that Jamie later adds his own observations to. It must have been hard for Jamie to choose which one of Cyndi Lauper’s hits to cover but we’re so glad he went with ‘She Bop’. Throwing fuzzy guitar hooks over the to-die-for melodies brings to mind the early singles of Reuben, while ‘Love Song for a Vampire’ (as sung by Annie Lennox for Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 film Bram Stoker’s Dracula) finds Jamie tipping his toes into a hard rock sound with healthy histrionics.
As ‘Shuffle rattles to its closing songs, Jamie pays tribute to his good friend Hannah Lou Clark and her old band, Foe, with his acoustic version of ‘A Handsome Stranger Called Death’. He flips what was a grungey sound into something more subtle with brass and Spanish guitar and it now sounds like something that would have fit perfectly on the quiet side of his ‘Muscle Memory’ album. There’s no messing around when it comes to ‘Hey Jude’; Jamie goes straight into an acapella ‘Na, na, na’ with handclaps before Brian May-style guitar and ferocious drums are added to the fray. The record finishes with a poignant and poetic piano-led rendition of Jake Thackray’s ‘The Rememberance. It’s an emotional piece that Jamie pays real respect to, especially when he delivers the fateful line: ‘This was a couple of days before we got killed in the war’.
‘Shuffle’ is the sound of a creatively charged musician stamping his individuality all over songs and works that have meant a lot to him over the years. Although Jamie has completely changed the sound of some of the pieces, the respect he has for every one shines through – and this makes it one hell of a listen.