Some things are best left alone. The temptation to meddle with an original work, milking it for all its commercial worth, can often be too tantalising to ignore: see Grease II, Jaws II, The Godfather III, the reformed Guns N Roses, the posthumous releases of Michael Jackson – in fact, the majority of posthumous releases – the list goes on. Now, disco-funk radio-favourites, Jamiroquai, join said list with their first offering in seven years, ‘Automaton’.
Famed for capturing a particularly British vogue for post-disco club tracks in the 1990s, Jamiroquai reached chart-topping popularity with a selection of similarly-backed songs, the majority of which all strangely centred around sci-fi themes (see ‘Space Cowboy’, ‘Cosmic Girl’, ‘Virtual Insanity’, ‘Emergency On Planet Earth’). Fronted by flamboyant lead-singer and ardent hat-wearer Jay Kay, in recent years the band had quietly backed out of the spotlight following 2010’s ‘Rock Dust Light Star’ LP. You could be forgiven for associating them these days only with a heavy rotation on the ‘Heart Club Classics’ playlist every Friday and Saturday night.
Dissatisfied with a relegation to the annals of pop history, though, this year sees a highly publicised comeback for the band with the release of their eighth studio album, ‘Automaton’. Suggested by the mechanical title, this latest record has led to Jamiroquai’s morphing from disco-pastiche specialists into a Daft Punk tribute act, without, however, the dance floor focus or inventiveness of production. Such a transition is heralded by lead singer Jay Kay’s removal of his preferred headgear, a culturally-appropriative Native American headdress, and donning instead a digitised version. This gesture can be read as a metaphor for the album itself: thinly-disguising an uncomfortable and offensive past gesture through a gloss of electronic retouching, nonetheless retaining its original offence.
Read the rest of the review in Clash Magazine.
[This piece was originally published in Clash Magazine on 31/03/17]