'Automaton:' Electric comeback of the Space Cowboy

Jamiroquai explores new waters in first album following seven-year absence

aejamiroquaivirginrecords

The funk band's latest album stays true to their signature sound while experimenting with new electronic themes.

Courtesy Virgin Records

Coming back from a seven-year-long absence is no walk in the park for any musical act, especially considering how much has changed within the realm of music. The newfound ease with which we can create and share media is unprecedented, and the ever-increasing pool of new music makes it harder for a given act to achieve mainstream success, let alone career longevity. Jamiroquai is shooting for both on “Automaton.”

The album opens with pulsating synth modulation on the song “Shake it On.” This track alone sets the tone for the rest of the album — danceable, seductive electro-funk. Perhaps in an effort to keep their signature acid-funk sounding fresh, Jamiroquai seems to reinvent themselves by incorporating strong electronic themes throughout the album. This is most present on the title track, where we see the band take a slightly more experimental approach with unexpected key-changes and cutting synth leads. It feels off-kilter, but it works.

Admittedly, there are moments on the album where Jamiroquai seems to borrow heavily from Daft Punk’s “Random Access Memories” playbook — the constant use of retro-futurisms in both the sonic and lyrical aspects of the album can become monotonous. Moreover, the largest shortcomings of this project are the lyrics. Lines such as, “You're like candy crush, two hits I was addicted to ya / Baby it's a rush, thinking of these numbing new worlds,” should not have made it past quality-control.

Despite Jay Kay often using lyrics as a means to compliment the general ‘vibe’ of a song rather than delivering mind-altering revelation, many of the lines on this album are completely underwhelming and occasionally inane enough to warrant a proper eye-roll. However, fortunately for the listener, most of the songs containing half-hearted lyrics are complemented by equally tepid instrumentation.

With a hefty 12 tracks, “Automaton” surely has something for everyone. As the tracklist progresses, songs such as “Dr. Buzz” and “Vitamin” are a true testament to the acid instrumental experimentation that birthed the band’s initial acclaim. Spinning guitar solos fading in and out of whirling keys are a dream come true for any jam musician. The precision and technical prowess of bass player Paul Turner is truly fantastic. Songs such as these do justice to the legacy of the band.

Tunes like “Cloud 9” and “Hot Property” offer the usual tale of hot pursuit and the perennially alluring yet marauding female — the latter of the two is set to a bass-line reminiscent of Parliament's “Flashlight.”

The album may have its flaws, but all in all it meets expectation, especially given the context of its release. Jamiroquai fans will be satisfied, as will the more casual music enthusiast — if listeners are looking to dance, look no further.

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