9 - 12 - 13
Jamie Lenman and Oxygen Thief @ The Garage London
A Ben Marwood Review
A couple of big things (for me) happened at Xtra Mile in the past couple of months: the release of the long-, long-, long-awaited solo double album from Jamie Lenman and another debut from Oxygen Thief, a double in its own right - not only his first release with Xtra Mile but also his first release to feature a full band.
Naturally, given the opportunity to see a show involving both of these fine men, I couldn't say no. So I didn't. Which is how I found myself having my face singed off on two occasions at the Garage, a venue that barely resembles my garage, your garage or, indeed, the venue it used to be. They should rename it The Excellent Islington Small Aircraft Hangar and.. wait.. no. This is for another day.
It turns out Jamie Lenman – you can insert your token Reuben mention here, Reuben fans – has possibly spent his past few years away from the stage perfecting what to do when he's on it. He opens with 'Shotgun House'. I know this one. I go nuts on the inside – on the surface all Xtra Mile acts are contractually obliged to maintain an air of unwavering cool - and prepare to know no further songs for the rest of the evening, until he starts busting out some old songs from some old band or other and a beanpole coming from behind me knocks twelve people flying in all directions in his effort to get close to the stage. I had joked about twenty minutes earlier with passing XMR head honcho Charlie Caplowe that I had no injuries to speak of. Now, my knee is hanging off.
Lenman. He of slick moustache and stagecraft; multi-instrumentalist; chief of banter. He tears through a mixture of Reuben numbers - 'No-One Wins The War', which for all the world felt like it was going to rip a hole in space, 'Good Luck' and more - and tracks from Muscle Memory. From the works of 'A Day In The Life', and balladry of 'I Ain't Your Boy' to the searing, crunching, screaming metal bits, it works whether he's alone, centre-stage, or teamed with his new army. This band are tight, and I'm not sure I've ever seen so much variety from a single set. I could watch them all day were it not for my time on this earth probably being finite.
Credit where credit is due, a portion of the power from tonight's performance comes courtesy of a white-hot crowd that seem content on out-noising the noisemakers, and they were warmed up nicely too. Kill Chaos were main support, who seem genuinely touched that people have made the trip and are paying attention, but that is not ever in doubt from first note to last.
Nor was it in doubt that the previously-solo Oxygen Thief would excel should he ever take some friends to the stage. Playing a mixture of new songs (from the future) and old songs recently revamped via Accidents Do Not Happen, They Are Caused, there is a new, loud and sharpened-to-a-point precision to this previously acoustic act. Appropriate time signatures and 4/4 pop songs be damned, stop/start/stop/reverse/start energy is being crammed into my weeping face. At some points the lighting guy is lost trying to second guess it, and a satisfied mission accomplished expression crosses the face of Barry Dolan – that, or maybe the merciless big-riffery of songs like 'Terry Nutkins Salute' – is a measure of the success tonight. There's a suggestion I might be biased.
So there you go. Two new-but-not-actually-new faces have entered the race for albums of the year. Your reward for not going to listen to them immediately would be a paper bag full of emptiness.