Jamiroquai – Rock Dust Light Star
Review by Jack Foley
JAMIROQUAI return with their first album in five years and their seventh overall… but while charismatic frontman Jay Kay professes to being ‘rejuvenated’, the music sounds pretty much the same.
For fans seeking a fresh blast of the ‘70s influenced funk that he has always specialised in, this is probably a good thing. For newcomers and anyone seeking a little progression, it smacks of laziness.
Rock Dust Light Star attempts to differ from many of its contemporaries by reverting to a more organic, live sound rather than an electronic, disco influenced one, and there are times when this does work in making the album sound at least a little different from the chasing pack.
But the template is pretty much the same, with only the odd moment to help proceedings really catch light and ensure that Jamiroquai recapture that early buzz that helped them sell 25 million albums and win Ivor Novello, Grammy and MTV awards.
Influences remain the same, borrowing from icons such as Stevie Wonder, The Bee Gees, The Jacksons or the Average White Band… with a few nods to contemporaries such as Scissor Sisters and Lenny Kravitz.
But one of the most striking things is just how familiar the whole thing sounds… rather like returning to a guilty pleasure but one that really should demand to be held in higher regard.
On the plus side, limited edition lead single White Knuckle Ride does at least show that Jay Kay has lost none of his energy, or smooth flowing delivery, emerging as a funky slice of falsetto disco that wouldn’t sound out of place on the new Scissor Sisters record. It’s fast, enlivening and fun.
Hurtin’, meanwhile, drops in some bluesy, rock based guitar riffs to offer a Lenny Kravitz snapshot that’s refreshingly different, while future single Blue Skies drops the tempo significantly to offer a sun-kissed mid-tempo ballad of sorts that’s marked by string arrangements and sultry backing vocals. It’s actually a deceptive choice for the album’s lead single, suggesting a completely new direction for Jamiroquai that’s never quite realised or really matched throughout.
But it does at least show that Jay Kay is capable of throwing in the odd surprise and is an assured piece of song-writing that leaves you yearning for more of the same.
Alas, with tracks such as the title track and album opener, as well as She’s A Fast Persuader, Smoke And Mirrors and Hey Floyd, there’s not really that much to choose between them – even though the tempo is funky enough to get you dancing along in appreciation when the mood is right.
At other times, meanwhile, attempts to recreate the smooth mid tempo style of Blue Skies don’t quite come off as well, with Never Gonna Be Another and Two Completely Different Things failing to make as strong an impression.
Taken as a whole, Jamiroquai’s latest isn’t a terrible addition to their glittering CV, but it is an underwhelming one with only pockets of greatness.
Download picks: White Knuckle Ride, Hurtin’, Blue Skies