Even for Jamie Lenman, a man whose eclectic tastes have confounded and delighted fans in equal measure ever since he first picked up a guitar, Shuffle is a left turn. Following 2017’s spectacular Devolver album with a set of covers is one thing, but an album of mixed-media reinterpretations covering music, film, TV, gaming and books…?! Eh?
The album starts with a fairly traditional one-two, fortifying The Beatles’ Tomorrow Never Knows with a pulsating rhythm that should make old-school Reuben fans very, very happy indeed, followed by a truly menacing take on Adamski and Seal’s Killer, before taking its first foray into the relative unknown with a fantastically louche Faith No More-esque rendition of the Taxi Driver soundtrack. Then the gloves come off. A feral take on the Popeye theme tune (or the playground version many know better) leads into a rendition of a scene from a short film, followed by Lenman’s take on the Seikilos epitaph, the oldest surviving complete musical composition known to man, and that’s just side one. Side two still has Trent Reznor bopping to Cyndi Lauper’s She Bop; an audiobook chapter of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick; a drone metal version of Hey Jude; and a haunting, piano-led rendition of Jake Thackray’s anti-war epic The Remembrance to see you out. Short of adding a personal take on Theresa May’s Fields of Wheat speech, or an audio description of one of our #CrayonAlbumCovers, or Dave from Barnsley’s last fart, it’s hard to imagine what other mediums he could possibly have covered.
There aren’t many artists who would even think of tackling such a project, even fewer with the creative freedom to execute it and the talent to make it work, but in Lenman’s hands every artistic whim sounds utterly captivating. Most will undoubtedly skip the spoken word pieces on repeat listens, but even that kind of feels like the point given the skipping interludes that pepper the album, and the traditional musical covers more than make up for any shortfall. A fascinating insight into the mind of one of Britain’s greatest artistic assets, and a worthy stop-gap while we patiently await this modern marvel’s next move. Fuck knows what that will be though!
Shuffle is out Friday 5 July on Big Scary Monsters