Sunday 9 April 2017

Review of 'Automaton' by Jamiroquai

Crazy-hat-wearing high-flying Jay Kay and his crew of funky instrumentalists have returned to the studio after seven years. Was the return of the space cowboy necessary in 2017? Or are there already enough disco/funk revival acts out there?

This decade has already witnessed the likes of ‘Uptown Funk’ and ‘Get Lucky’ topping the charts. And the underground scene already has its fair share of funk revivalists such as Thundercat and Anderson Paak. If Jamiroquai were going to jump back on the bandwagon, they’d have to come out with something a little more exciting than their 2010 adult contemporary album Rock Dust Light Star.

Automaton sees Jay continuing to deliver his signature croons, sounding slightly more worn than on previous records – probably from years of public tantrums. The lyrics are as goofy as ever, consisting largely of space babble, boogie talk and relationships with femme fatales straight out of a Bond movie. But it’s all innocently fun – if Jay  was singing about death and politics, I’d be worried.

Fortunately, the band have stepped up their game since their last record. These instrumentals are ridiculously funky and feelgood – up there with the band's Virtual-Insanity-era work. In fact, they make you realise most modern funk is more watered down than service station coffee. ‘Hot Property’'s diving bassline and outro of layered synths is audial sex, and the groove of ‘Something About You’ is enough to get a deaf man tapping his foot. There’s also clear signs of progression – ‘Automaton’ adopting robo-vocals and some sharp futuristic synths that sound like they were engineered by Martians.

‘Nights Out In The Jungle’ is really the only dud in the mix – an attempt at funk-flavoured hip hop that’s tasteful but seems to just plod on aimlessly for four minutes. All in all, this may not be a ground-breaking album, but if you’re looking for cartoonishly-vibrant dance music without the pop filter or Hiatus Kaiyote-esque noodling, this album is your lifeline.