Jamiroquai - Rock Dust Light Star
If there was one band in the nineties that you could rely on to bring the funk, it was Jamiroquai. Their last album, a greatest hits collection, back in 2006 marked the end of their contract with Sony and was also signalled the start of a new era for the band with more supposed creative control of their output. Now with Mercury Records, Rock Dust Light Star marks the band’s first studio album in five years but creative control or not, it sounds as though the band haven't moved far musically. There’s no denying that there’s something refreshing in not pandering to current trends and sticking to a successful formula, but the lack of progress is unlikely to catch the ear of the previously unmoved.
Depending on what track is currently spinning, Rock Dust Light Star can either sound enjoyably retro or extremely dated but fortunately the former feeling just about wins out. There may not be an instant hit like ‘Virtual Insanity’ or ‘Space Cowboy’, but they certainly come close on several occasions. ‘Smoke And Mirrors’ utilises a sax to wonderful effect, while ‘Hey Floyd’ has an odd meld of ska-tinged verses and a grandiose funk rock climax that shouldn’t work - but just does. Highlight of the bunch though is unquestionably ‘Lifeline’ with its stomping sax, strings and piano combination and, more impressively, you can still pick out the individual melodies that merge into one highly satisfying whole instead of everything clashing and coming across as more of a jam session than a song.
However, there are very few moments of inspiration and individuality other than those already mentioned, although the subtle, acoustic musings of ‘Blue Skies’ deserves a mention, and overall everything is just too samey. Acid jazz, by implication, almost begs to be played with but tracks like ‘All Good In The Hood’ and ‘She’s A Fast Persuader’ just don’t do enough to stand out. On their own, they are good tracks but just that: good tracks that justify an album appearance but very little else.
It’s pleasing to see that Jamiroquai are still determined to tread their own path through dance music, but when it’s done in a by-the-numbers way like it is at times here, it almost sounds tired. This mixture of funk gems and blunted lumps of funk coal might have been acceptable if the band had been knocking out an album annually, but they’ve had five years to prepare. The funk is still there and still hits the right note; it’s just that it’s still following the same song sheet.