Automaton – Jamiroquai

Jamiroquai released their eighth studio album, “AUTOMATON,” on March 30th 2017, almost SEVEN YEARS after their last album, “Rock Dust Light Star” in late 2010. To say the fans were impatiently anticipating this release (much less struggling to even pronounce its title) was most certainly an understatement. According to lead singer “JK,” the album was initially due to arrive in 2013, however he became a father during this time, so it was obviously put on the back-burner.

Eventually, it was released over here in Australia by Virgin Records, as it was everywhere else in the world, yet it seemed as though none of the major retailers had in stock. This was proven to be more a case of: “It’s almost halfway through the day. Usually at this point, the CD would be located under “Dance & Electronica” or “New Releases,” but honestly? We haven’t even put it out yet!” Physical products must really be a dying breed.

Speaking of which, JK and the band also decided to release “Automaton” as a Double LP set, which has a very nice, shiny matt finish to its cover and inner sleeves…. not to mention, that Buffalo Man looks very cool spinning around on your turntable.

Finally, it must be noted that it sounds very much like “JK” had the flu when he was recording some of his vocals…. or at least that was this reviewer’s immediate reaction when listening to the CD for the very first time. Perhaps “Mr K” just wanted to get the new music out there as soon as possible? At any rate, here are a few words on each song:

Shake It On: It’s been a long time coming, but JK is back in funky Jedi mode, or at least he’s getting ready to “step on Mars” once again and go intergalactic with his brand of funky disco pop. “Gonna be a freak tonight,” he sings. Lots of great strings throughout this one and he even alters his vocals, as he’ll do many times on this disc. Not a bad introduction to the new album.

Automaton: Uncertainties of pronunciations aside, the main concern here is that one day we’re going to be overtaken by robots, or androids if you will, so JK is taking on the guise of one, just as he is in the video & on the album cover. You can even hear a lot of robot noises all the way through this one, as though they’re walking around in some other galaxy all together. Given the theme, it’s quite an electronic based song. There’s a reference to the David Bowie film “The Man Who Fell To Earth,” which may or may not have been mentioned in tribute. And for the record, it’s pronounced “AWE-TOM-AH-TON,” even though he says it differently all the way through the song.

Cloud Nine: In a way, this is exactly what you would expect from Jamiroquai, it’s one of those funky disco pop songs that you would probably even place in the same category as “Cosmic Girl.” Not saying it’s a bad song, it’s nothing really ground-breaking. Then again it’s not really supposed to be. The video for this song featured Jay dancing with Penelope Cruz’s sister, Monica. Hey, let’s face it, they look identical! Of course it wouldn’t be a Jamiroquai video without him riding around in one of his cars, which indeed he’s doing. And yes, you can even see him lisping in this video clip.

Super Fresh: The first song on the album where JK sounds a bit like has a blocked nose is also one where he’s voice is mostly altered, especially in the intro. Jay says that his concept for this song was to have two robots dancing with each other, one female one male. That aside, it’s just a really great uptempo tune which is perfect for dancing. The female vocals on this one are really good, too. This is that hyper, futuristic Jedi Funk that you would come to recognise and expect from Jamiroquai. No doubt.

Hot Property: Music can be interpreted in all kinds of ways, but JK himself has confirmed that he’s written this song about certain European women who are involved in gangster lifestyles. The woman in this song is actually speaking in Russian and she’s telling somebody that they’ll have no other choice than to follow her orders, or else that person will be liquidated! It’s a pretty good groove, but clearly quite a dangerous subject matter. He describes the women in great detail, especially their skin tight skirts. Yes.

Something About You: Ha! It sounds a bit like he’s saying, “Since I can’t let go of 69,” but no it wouldn’t make sense if that were the case. “Since that night” is the correct lyric. It’s another one of those funky disco tunes with a whole loads of strings and what not. But then the groove kinda switches up during the verses, which is very cool. Sounds a bit like he has a blocked nose on this one, too. “JASON KAY, BLOW YOUR NOSE!!” Well, they couldn’t get Maceo, so this is the closest thing.

Summer Girl: Here’s a dedication to all the attractive young women out there who seem to be attracted to rich older men, when they’re actually bored out of their skulls and uninterested. They want to talk about politics, instead of whatever the guy wants to discuss with them. Maybe I cheated when I wrote this review, cuz I watched Jay talking about each song & therefore explaining each meaning. But hey, it’s better than speculating, right?

Nights Out In The Jungle: Really great bass licks are all over this one and it’s quite possibly the most reminiscent of their late ‘90s work. Sounds like it was originally intended to be an instrumental, but Jay decided to write some lyrics over it, which he’s actually rapping. MC JK coming at cha! Technically for the second time, because he rapped a verse on the title track as well. He’s stated that “Nights Out” is about famous people like himself and the late Amy Winehouse being followed around by paparazzi. This song is very cool. Even if it sounds like somebody should pass him a hanky or tissue! If you really crank it up, you can hear an old record crackling, along with some turntable scratches… and even a few monkey screeches. We’re in the jungle all right! Funnily enough, there are drag queens in limousines in this particular jungle. Now THERE’S a first! But no, he’s talking about what he sees in real life and he compares it to a jungle.

Dr Buzz: If it’s one thing JK never lost sight of, it was his ability to include social commentaries on his albums. “Dr Buzz” is no exception, as it’s about the shootings that were happening in America at the time of its release. Towards the end of the song, the female backing singers chant: “Hands up don’t shoot.” And boy, do they ever sound soulful. Again, it sounds like JK’s got a blocked nose, but that shouldn’t really take away from anything. Apparently this song samples the drums from “Family Affair” by Sly & The Family Stone, or maybe they were trying to re-create that particular groove. Yet there is no credit.

We Can Do This: Is this Jamiroquai, or is it a stuffy-nosed STING coming at you right now? JK sounds a bit like him here. As for the rest of this song, it was certainly considered one of the weaker cuts on the album by a lot of fans, including myself. Maybe after a few listens, it kinda flows with the rest of the album but for the most part… it’s nothing special, really.

Vitamin: Musically this song has that hyper funky disco groove behind it. Lyrically he’s talking about reminiscing on all of those times he took drugs and realising that it was never really worth doing any in the first place. He feels like he no longer needs that in his life and uses the word “vitamin” as a metaphor, while encouraging his girl to “Get some funk and love” in her life. Being an Englishman, JK alternates between both the standard and “proper English” pronunciations of the word. As in, he starts off singing “VITE-A-MIN” and ends with “VIT-A-MIN.” JK covered this subject on his last album as well: See, “Hey Floyd” from “Rock Dust Light Star.”

Carla: If Jay wanted to write his daughter a very nice, heartfelt song without being too cheesy, then he’s hit the nail on the head. For all we know, Carla will probably look back on this song, read the lyrics and weep bucketloads… which is exactly the kind of reaction you want, man! As much as you want her to be moved, you don’t want to see her crying because she’s sad….. OK, fine the keyboard riff sounds a bit like something you would’ve heard on one of those old Casio keyboards…. but that’s my only real complaint here if you choose to see it as such. Overall it’s not a bad dedication.

Nice & Spicy: Lots of big, heavy bass riffs and synthesizers are all over this one, which gives it a much harder groove compared to the other cuts on the album. Unfortunately it’s only available on the Japanese pressing. Perhaps it was left over because the bass line is very similar to the previous song, “Carla.” At any rate, “Nice & Spicy” should’ve been on ALL pressings of this album, as it’s a much better closer. JK seems to like it hot, hence the comparison of what he likes in his life to spicy food.

VERDICT: As we all know, Jamiroquai first started off as an Acid Jazz band. It seems as though we’re all waiting for JK to return to those sounds, which most likely won’t happen, unless of course, he decides to reform the old band. For now, we have a brand new selection of tunes, some of which seem to hark back to the sounds of “Synkronized” and “Funk Odyssey.” No ballads appear on this album, which therefore gives it much more of an uptempo party vibe. Overall, a decent comeback album from Jamiroquai. Hopefully, it won’t take them another seven years to release its follow-up.