You may remember Reuben. Appearing on the British alternative rock scene at the turn of the millennium at the same time as Hell is For Heroes, Hundred Reasons, Biffy Clyro and Million Dead, Reuben became known as a quirky yet thunderous live band with a clutch of alt metal anthems and witty banter at their disposal. Unfortunately the band went on indefinite hiatus in 2008 leaving their still growing fan-base to come to terms with this loss. In the first in our Throwback Thursday series of features, we re-live the brilliance of their first album, Racecar Is Racecar Backwards.
What comes across still when listening to the album is how confident and self-assured it is for a debut. Great early singles like ‘Scared of the Police’ and ‘Stux’, on any other band’s album would have pride of place positions, but in a daring move Reuben felt that they didn’t make the cut, and to be fair, they do not. The quality of the songs on Racecar is Racecar Backwards is extremely high. From the math rock inspired ‘No One Wins the War’ to the nu-metal aping riffage of ‘Our Song’, the grungy ‘Parties Break Hearts’ to the almost emo closer ‘Dusk’ the album is incredibly diverse while staying within the loose genre parameters of post-hardcore. It would not be hyperbolic to rank the album amongst the best of the genre alongside The Argument, Worship and Tribute and Relationship of Command.
What sells the songs though is the talent behind them. Jamie Lenman’s vocal style switches between a whisper to a roar in a manner akin to Deftones’ Chino Moreno, albeit with a Surrey drawl, and his guitar style reciprocates: sometimes discordant, sometimes melodic, always interesting. While Jamie unleashes mental solos Jon Pearce keeps things constantly driving, using repeating motifs on tracks like ‘Stuck In My Throat’ to keep schizophrenic song structure approachable, while on ‘Parties Break Hearts’ unleashing one of the many essential Reuben bone-rattling basslines. Guy Davis with his lightning fills, pounding beats and occasionally poly-rhythmic rhythms never lets up and on the minor masterpiece ‘Oh The Shame’ builds from simple straight forward beat to a galloping roller-coaster cacophony in two whirlwind minutes.
The most enduring, and perhaps revealing song on Racecar is Racecar Backwards is the Weezer-ish pop-rock stomper ‘Freddy Kreuger’. It tells the autobiographical tale of being in a band, sleeping on your dad’s couch and touring your socks off for fleeting recognition. It’s a theme that runs through the whole of the band’s catalogue: wondering if they have made the right choice by being in a band. Second album stand-out ‘Return of the Jedi’ deals with the same issue and alludes to their eventual break up whilst the title of their posthumous rarities collection (We Should Have Gone to University) jokingly longs for the path not-travelled.
In a way Reuben are quite like Refused in that in their absence they have become bigger now than when they were together whilst having inspired countless bands in the interim. Maybe if ‘Stuck In My Throat’ is used as the soundtrack to Jason Statham losing his shit we can get our long-awaited Reuben reunion. At this moment it seems unlikely: Lenman released his first solo album (Muscle Memory) in 2013 to positive reviews while there has been nothing new from Guy Davis’ new band Freeze The Atlantic since their well-received self-titled second album in 2014. Though their current output is enjoyable but their finest hour will always be Racecar Is Racecar Backwards. Seriously, if you haven’t already, listen to this landmark of British Rock.