Jamiroquai could have been relegated to sheer ’90s nostalgia, but their 12-track Automaton shows that wasn’t meant to be. Known primarily for frontman Jay Kay’s penchant for funky hats, unreasonable vocal comparisons to Stevie Wonder and a propensity for catchy acid jazz and “future funk” grooves, Jamiroquai are back, and the end result is worth your time.
It’s been seven years since 2010’s Rock Dust Light Star, and it’s clear that the band haven’t really lost a step. Jay Kay and keyboardist Matt Johnson handle the writing and production duties for their eighth studio endeavour — billed as an aural response to the global rise artificial intelligence and the potential impact to humanity — and carefully balance their signature sound with today’s EDM, soul and trap sounds.
Texturally and melodically, opening number “Shake It On” feels firmly in the electro-funk pocket. Elsewhere, the “wakka wakka” guitar “Nights Out in the Jungle” makes it feel like a party warm-up, the bombast “Automaton” nods to the Daft Punk sound, the soulful “island groove” intensity “We Can Do It” will get you jamming despite yourself and “Something About You” hits a delightful spot New Power Generation-esque funk and early ’80s Salsoul chunkiness.
Weak spots include “Superfresh” and “Hot Property,” staid disco-pop ditties fering outdated synth and vocoder machinations. But overall, Automaton is inspired, experimental and timeworn. Jay Kay and crew still have something in the tank, even if newcomers might still be left wondering what the fuss is all about.
Pick up Automaton on vinyl here. (Universal)