Ok, so we need to preface this review by saying it is very difficult for us to be objective about anything by Jamiroquai. We gorged on the first three albums (‘Emergency on Planet Earth’, ‘The Return of the Space Cowboy’, ‘Travelling Without Moving’) in our formative years, practising Stuart Zender’s basslines until our fingers were raw. The next four albums were a bit of a roller-coaster for us, so we were keen to hear what direction the ride was going to take us when we warmed up the amp and speakers to listen to new album ‘Automaton’.
We already felt we were on an incline having been treated to the title track and ‘Cloud 9’ (which we reviewed in February), but would we drop down after that brief riser or be taken higher in preparation for corkscrew of excitement? We’re happy to say it’s the latter.
Since ‘Funk Odyssey’ the Jamiroquai sound has been more traditional funk than the experimental jazz vibes the earlier albums offered. Those funk elements are definitely present again through Rob Harris’s guitar stabs, Derrick McKenzie’s crisp drumming and Paul Turner’s grooving bass. It’s the synthesised elements that punctuate the album that really set it apart from the others. Be it the tropical space dream arpeggio’s of ‘Automaton’ or grittier feel on ‘Carla’, the sound is matched perfectly to each song.
String flourishes have always been a feature that Jamiroquai have used in their songs to add suspense and carry you between sections, once again they’re back in abundance. The combination of these with horns and ever so slightly discordant synths on the breakdown of ‘Summer Girl’ showcase this technique with aplomb.
There are more instrumental led tracks like ‘Nights Out In The Jungle’ which feels like a soundtrack to a synth / funk Western with sampled jungle sound effects thrown in plus a dash of eastern mysticism for good measure. Shame the song fades as the guitar solo starts to rip out.
Whilst we’re not going to tout this as Jamiroquai’s greatest work (lyrically it feels a little half baked at times, see: ‘Hot Property’ and ‘Vitamin’), it is certainly a varied showcase of the bands influences and experiences as artists that absolutely deserves your attention.