Following the success of “Virtual Insanity” Jamiroquai’s Travelling Without Moving album became something of a blockbuster,spinning off hit after deserving hit during 1997,even culminating in a successful non album single Deeper Underground from Godzilla: The Album. Than suddenly that convergence of new and vibrant creative energy of the mid 1990’s began to dissipate as time passed. Not only was a century about to turn but a millennium was too. So by decades end the MTV roster and radio that Jamiroquai were champions of for a time was suddenly beginning the first waves of success from the likes of Backstreet Boys,Britney Spears,Hansen,N’Sync and the actually musically deserving Spice Girls had by this point come and gone. Pop had caught a heavy case of neophilia and wasn’t letting go. So when this follow up arrived to what should have been great anticipation and fan fare….it sank almost into commercial oblivion and would be largely forgotten stateside for many years. But this would emerge as what might actually,to this point anyway since they are still recording,Jamiroquai’s finest and most fully musically realized album. They sure had a lot of creative inspiration. Pop music was witnessing the official ending of the age of the artist,extending from the 60’s into the 90’s and into the modern era. A time that dominated by the peak of internet obsession,when the term “.com” was still a buzz word and where visual media was at a primary. In the meantime,for those mostly musical types still paying Jamiroquai close attention things were just getting better.
From start to finish this is their most glossily produced album of the decade. But the finery in which this music was constructed and the extremely well oiled grooves are what makes this. “Canned Heat” comes straight out of their classic disco dance/funk sound and was actually something of a commercial success too,taking on a Chic-like witty look at modern dance culture. Interestingly enough songs such as “Planet Home” as well as “Destitute Illusion” and “Supersonic”,with their heavy reliance on scratching and break beats sport are the first Jamiroquai songs to really acknowledge the early 80’s hip-hop/DJ scene that inspired young Jay Kay to begin with. However that 70’s funk band flavor is still paramount. “Black Capricorn Day” brings a hot and heavy Sly inspired horn/phased electric rhodes piano sound to the mix. “Falling” has that great softly jazz funk flavor to it. “Soul Education” is one of those hits that never happened. Great jazzy guitar line,floating rhythm make it Jamiroquai styled sophistifunk of the best kind. Pitty it was a forgotten album track. Hard to be subjective on that one. “Butterfly” takes on a similar flavor with one of the most elaborate melodic constructs they’d ever had.Of course in terms of melody the harpsicord sounding closer “King For A Day” isn’t a bad shot at repeating that feat. “Where Do We Go From Here” has a heavy late 70’s Quincy/MJ style dance flavor to it and is one of the most well crafted jams here.
In every possible way Jamiroquai were an unqualified musical success of the 1990’s. They dared to be different in a time when pop music was becoming sanctioned into so many subdivisions and schools,it began to seem unapproachable. They also helped to make clear how potent,important,beautiful and underappreciated 70’s funk/soul/disco music was in all it’s many forms. Yes there were always those types who will accuse the band,more notably Jay Kay for “faking the funk”. But frankly that’s basically yet more media credibility,not music. I doubt George Clinton coined that phrase back in the day so some critics could use it to hate on what they didn’t like and appreciate. It’s too bad though that,when Jamiroquai seemed to have hit the highest end of their peak with this album that hardly anyone paid attention. If they had,the pop music landscape wouldn’t have been in the confused dire straits it was in in the first decade or so of the millennium. Creatively and musically speaking,the 2000’s would not prove as potent and consistent a time for Jamiroquai as they seemed to slowly abandon their close knit band mentality in favor of retreating into the backround as Jay Kay and his own musical interests seemed to take presidents. I don’t know how or why this happened. But only now is that being somewhat remedied. While it’s doubtful Jamiroquai themselves will ever make anything this creatively vital again,this is truly an inspiration for bands that,during difficult times in music,being yourself will eventually work to your advantage.
Originally Written On December 30th,2011
*Here is the original review: