During the seven minute epic that is Return of the Jedi, Reuben vocalist Jamie Lenman lays his cards firmly on the table: ‘These here Helmet rip-offs, they don’t buy my lunch, so I will get a real job in the office’, he sings in one of many lyrical moments so down to earth he could almost be Paul Heaton. This isn’t Paul Heaton however, but loud and dirty rock’n'roll that is very likely to buy the band lunch for some time to come.
More punchy, more catchy, tighter and less sprawling than last year’s Racecar is Racecar Backwards, Very Fast Very Dangerous is a very good, and very English rock album, and one that grows significantly with each listen. Dave Grohl’s influence is still obvious throughout, but so is that of label-mates Million Dead and you have to wonder whether the lyrical inventiveness of the latter has set up some kind of contest within the Xtra Mile roster for the cleverest wordplay. By the sound of this, it’s a contest Reuben are keen to try and win.
There are some great riffs here, some wonderful drumming and more besides, but it’s the words, and the inspired song titles that make the first impression. Sometimes this can lead to disappointment – Every Time a Teenager Listens to Drum & Bass a Rockstar Dies has to be a strong candidate for title of the year, but the lack of any obvious connection between the title and the song itself spoils it somewhat.
That song is also a bit dull, but fortunately that’s not the norm here. Blamethrower, another great play on words, is a much more competent rock’n'roll blaster which (like Keep it To Yourself) tackles the British tradition of blaming and complaining head on, and with accuracy. As well as being a possible broadside against the whining EMO masses, it also carries a classic stoner-rock groove that the Master of Reality himself Chris Goss would be proud of.
The album kicks off with A Kick in the Mouth, which immediately sets up the combination of American grunge vs UK hardcore vs English idiosyncrasy. Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em carries on in the same vein, before the album opens up to show us some of the more varied delights Reuben have to offer – and this album is nothing if not ambitious, with Reuben clearly taking a few nods from the System of a Down school of multi-section song construction and general oddity.
Take Best Enemies, for example: a rock song definitely, but take away the heavy guitars and this really could be a Beautiful South number, and the chorus even reminds me a bit of Deacon Blue’s Dignity. Later on, Jamie’s vocals on Good Night recall Terry Hall or Jarvis Cocker, at least until the screaming starts. Meanwhile Nobody Loves You shows Reuben trying their hands at the full-on string section rock ballad, by and large succeeding.
If this all sounds a bit eccentric, then it is that. If it sounds self-indulgent then it is that too, in places – especially on the aforementioned Star Wars song that doesn’t seem to be about Star Wars. If it sounds like a damn fine and original rock’n'roll record that’s ready to launch Reuben into rock’n'roll stardom, it could just be that too. This one grows on you, so much so we could have a genuine sleeper hit on our hands. Well worth a listen.