Jamiroquai: Rock Dust Light Star

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Posted April 14, 2011 by J Matthew Cobb in Reviews 1.0
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After a brief hiatus, Jay Kay and the cool boys are growing up and piling on heartier genre experiments than before

Regardless of what style its wrapped in these days, dance music is now the new crack of pop music. Black Eyed Peas, Ke$ha, Gaga and Rihanna have their hands wrapped around the magnetic club beats like the Donna Summers of the Seventies. So explain why Jay Kay and his faceless tribe of funksters known as Jamiroquai have had the roughest time trying to make a sale in the States. It shouldn’t be that hard since the British acid jazz band – with their sneaky funk sounds and disco-influenced beats – have managed to go platinum worldwide with each album release since their 1993 debut Emergency on Planet Earth. Five dance singles from their catalog have soared to No. 1 on the dance charts. Those facts alone prove that Jamiroquai’s presence is far from being labeled an overseas novelty.

After finishing out at Sony with a greatest hits LP, Jamiroquai releases Rock Dust Light Star, their sixth studio LP, on their new music home at Mercury. Frontman Jason “Jay” Kay has now crossed the threshold of 40 and has said on a number of occasions that “laid-back” will be the order of the day for him. “Cosmic Girl” is now thirteen years old and Kay is ready to mature with the music. But the new beginning at Mercury is light years away from being translated as an “adult contemporary” record. The funk is very much alive, the arrangements are still extravagant and the interplay with genres and styles feel secure. Produced by Brad Spence and Charlie Russell, Rock Dust Light Star can be described as a Boeing 737 trip with an immaculate takeoff, very little turbulence and a delicious landing. “White Knuckle Ride” takes off with uptempo get-down disco, breezy Daft Punk synths and Chic guitar riffs. The serene synths on the chorus are a beaut, but the bass lines of the verses and how Jay Kay glides his silky soulful vocals downward (“I’m serious/Trouble genie’s on the way”) are deeply entrancing. The sounds are what you’d expect from today’s Jamiroquai. “Smoke and Mirrors” and the throbbing ’70’s funk of “All Good In the Mood” keeps the cool dancing tempo alive, but Rock Dust Light Star does a marvelous job in squeezing in sufficient mood changers and ballads. “Blue Skies,” a string-enhanced ballad, allows Jay Kay to serenade ears with virtuosic skill using AC charm. Songs like “Two Completely Different Things” and “Never Gonna Be Another,” with its lounge jazz coolness, keeps the romance burning, like Maxwell would do if giving a Chic soundtrack. Unbelievably so, Rock Dust Light Star poses to take on genre-bending styles unlike any of Jamiroquai’s former albums, but it’s not done in the way that will disfranchise their fans or label them “sellouts.”

“Hurtin'” rocks like a sweaty Southern rock number stamped with the Lenny Kravtiz and Allen Toussaint design. “She’s a Fast Persuader” acts more like an after-hours club event loaded with lush keys, Louie Vega-inspired techniques and rapid MJ phrasing. “Hey Floyd,” an amalgam of Police reggae, Roy Ayers funk and Curtis Mayfield soul, provides the perfect finale for the disc. On the surface these combinations on one song sound perplexing, but Jamiroquai creates an even-out symphonic trifecta landing them safely on dry ground.

Rock Dust Light Star is probably the band’s most adventurous and most confident record to date since their expansion on the genres seems to be a bit more obvious this time around. But make no mistake about it – it remains an example of what they do best. Funky uptempos while challenging dance music with some balance. You can’t live your life high all the time, otherwise you’re going to crash. Modern dance music definitely stands in need of that proverbial injection.

J MATTHEW COBB

HIFI DETAILS

  • Release Date: 1 November 2010 (UK)
  • Label: Mercury
  • Producer: Charlie Russell, Brad Spence
  • Spin This: “White Knuckle Ride,” “Good In the Hood,” “Blue Skies”

About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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