Jamiroquai have finally returned to music with their new release Automaton, this is the band’s first release since 2010’s Rock Dust Light Star, the latest album is nu-disco combined with electronic funk - but it still has Jamiroquai’s classic acid jazz style. There are critics who claim this to be a rip off Daft Punk album, whilst there may be some influence, these ideas are negated simply by listening to the album and remembering that Jamiroquai were also trendsetters of this sound (along with their themes of space, see ‘Cosmic Girl’ from 1996). Just because an album has an electronic disco sound or the occasional vocoder does not mean it is imitating Daft Punk, otherwise much of the nu-disco genre would be nullified. Cerrone and numerous other artists also used vocoders way back in the 1970s; Daft Punk may be pioneers of the technology but they do not own the vocoder. In fact the track that takes most influence from artists like Daft Punk and Justice is the title track ‘Automaton’, and this number is quite different to the rest of the album’s style.
This mixture of electronic, funk, disco, and acid jazz is merged with cyber and interstellar themes. Jay Kay claims that these themes are inspired by ‘the rise of artificial intelligence and technology in our world today and how we as humans are beginning to forget the more pleasant, simple and eloquent things in life and in our environment’. The themes are evident in songs like ‘Nights Out in the Jungle’ where the bassline is accompanied by some old school synths which give the music an ethereal atmosphere and galactic sound. This is the only song on the album solely written by Jay Kay, the rest were co-written with keyboardist Matthew Johnson.
One of the standout tracks on Automaton is lead single ‘Cloud 9’, which is a real funky disco number that resembles some of Jamiroquai’s earlier work the most. The infectious guitar on this song comes straight out of the golden age of disco from ’78-’82. Jay Kay still has a distinctive voice and style, when combined with these tasty strings it seems like Jamiroquai never went away. Rob Harris on guitar and Paul turner on bass are a winning formula, they bring the disco funk in full force whilst keeping that enchanting Jamiroquai sound alive. The song ‘Summer Girl’ just shows how much Turner and Harris are killing it on Automaton, with some great backing vocals here, it’s easily a favourite from the album.
Whilst still feeling like a Jamiroquai record, there is some variety, with ‘Vitamin’ leaning more on the jazz spectrum; this has some impressive drumming from Derrick McKenzie. The keys are also pretty jazzy, ‘Vitamin’ is a genre fusion with some really funky bass by Paul Turner; there's also a sexy saxophone on 'Dr Buzz'. However, one of the best tracks on this record is ‘Something About You’, the guitar has that Nile Rodgers charm and there are some great string arrangements, something which the band often incorporate into their music. This is one hell of a groovy tune and, along with the rest of the album, Jamiroquai seem like they could become a big part of 2017’s summer soundtrack with Automaton.