Sound — 9
Look like tramps, sound like Kings. That's the motto that UK three-piece Reuben has adopted in recent years. Their sound is a rather shape-shifting combination of dirty rock 'n roll, hardcore and pop. Their first two albums, Racecar Is Racecar Backwards and Very Fast Very Dangerous were both incredibly well received in the UK, and they've got a large cult following on these shores. As far as I'm aware, they haven't really broken through anywhere else but in the UK we love them. I was lucky enough to see them live last February, and they played a couple of songs from their upcoming album In Nothing We Trust, and I thought they were brilliant. I bought this album on the day of release as I know that Jamie Lenman and co. never disappoint. In Nothing We Trust is a far more experimental album than their previous efforts. Racecar Is Racercar Backwards was a straight-up hardcore/rock album, and it's successor was (with a couple of exceptions) just a hard-hitting modern rock album. This time there's a lot more elements that come into play. You can still recognise the sound that Reuben had previously but they've dabbled in things like electronics, metal and post-rock (and something which vaguely resembles progressive rock in parts of Suffocation Of The Soul). Their live performance a couple of months ago was intense, and it was mostly due to the incredibly energetic drum performance from Guy Davis. Halfway through the gig he actually had to go offstage to rest (and the drummer of the support band Sucioperro played the next song). His performance on In Nothing We Trust doesn't surprise me in this aspect at all. There's times where he's playing fairly simple rock beats with little touches which give him a distinctive style, and some where's he's whacking his drums at such insane rates that sometimes they almost turn into white noise, I swear. He even plays some searing double bass drums on a couple of songs. As with all three-pieces, his drumming has to form brilliantly with the music as there's nothing to cover him up if he's just slapping standard beats onto the tracks. The guy has dedication and undisputable technical skill. Stellar performance. Bassists in British rock bands very rarely have any kind of distinction from the guitars, but (partly due to the originality of the guitar parts) he always stands out. He has gorgeous fuzzy tone, which helps, but his basslines always connect with the guitar parts perfectly, and he drives a lot of the more upbeat songs with some pretty catchy runs (though I can't help but notice he did this better on Very Fast Very Dangerous). On the slower/quieter songs he isn't quite as prominent but there's no loss as in these sections the rest of the band more than make up for it. Jamie Lenman's humour and attitude to working in music is very uplifting, and is I think one of the big reasons why his band has got such a devout fanbase. The riffs he writes are always exciting and get you pumping (see 'Blamethrower' if you don't believe me) and this time, I think that's changed a little. However, it's not for the worse. The guitar parts are more mature (the album in general is), but there's no quality lost, just the direct bite and pace of their previous album's guitar work is gone, and replaced with often more complex guitar parts which make you think more than they make you tap your foot. There's more work with acoustic guitars on In Nothing We Trust, and some of the sections where they're used are absolutely beautiful (and unlike some of their previous mellow songs, don't get dull). The songwriting in closer A Short History Of Nearly Everything in particular is phenomenal, with so many different moods given off climaxing in a crazy hardcore finish. The vocals on this effort are massively improved. Jamie's screams have more attack (though they certainly weren't lacking in that department before), and he maintains a high intensity even when he's playing equally brutal guitar parts (see We're All Going Home In An Ambulance). His clean voice was good on previous albums; it did it's job perfectly fine, however on this new album he's phenomenal. His voice is perfect in the quiet parts, particularly on 'Good Luck' where the vocal duties are split three ways, between himself, Hannah Clark (of Arthur, an underground band) and Paul Townsend (ex-Hundred Reasons). His style is perfect for each song, with something more traditional for Agony/Agatha (what is essentially a pop song), and something a little more urgent sounding for Three Hail Marys (a song written during the Very Fast Very Dangerous sessions, it shows).
Lyrics — 10
Jamie's lyrics are tongue-in-cheek, opinionated, and incredibly to-the-point. There's no mucking about here. He sings about what he wants and isn't going to go off on an artistic tangent at the cost of his point. Themes vary from the music scene to relationships to getting drunk on a Saturday night. He's a great guy and his lyrics are a portrayal of that. Of course, he isn't nice to everyone (there's some songs which are just plain old rants) but the lyrics have humour and class (yes, even Crushed Under The Weight Of The Enormous Bullshit), and those qualities are something which I'd like to see more in music, there's too many pseudo-intellectuals in charge of their band's lyrics these days. More Jamie Lenman, less Chris Martin please.
Overall Impression — 9
In Nothing We Trust is an incredibly solid release. There's only one song which I don't particularly enjoy (Crushed Under The Weight Of The Enormous Bullshit, though most Reuben songs which I don't like at first grow on me) but all of the others are fantastic. It's got some of Reuben's heaviest and softest songs, and overall the sound has matured a lot. The guitar work has gotten more interesting, the drumming has mellowed out just a little, and the bass playing is as consistent as ever. The vocals, though, are the definite focal point of the album. The highlight songs are We're All Going Home In An Ambulance, Suffocation Of The Soul and Good Luck but the whole album is definitely worth a purchase. It definitely beats Racecar Is Racecar Backwards and I think that given time it will overtake Very Fast Very Dangerous in my books also. They're getting better with every release, Reuben are.