Funny story: my dad once went to a party back in the 90s and was asked what music should be put on. His reply, in an attempt to look cool: "put some of that Jammyrocky on".
He was referring, of course, to space-pop acid-jazz sensation Jamiroquai, famous for hits like Cosmic Girl and Virtual Insanity as well as a penchant for headdresses (the name, incidentally, is a mix of "jam" and "Iroquai", a native American tribe). Dad was right - the band were pretty cool back in the day. But after changes in their sound, changes in record label and some unsuccessful releases, Jay Kay and co. seemed destined to remain a relic of the past.
As is typical of fashion, though, what was once cool tends to come back around. After the likes of Daft Punk, Justin Timberlake, Pharrell and DJ Todd Terje updated disco for 21st century tastes, Jamiroquai now return with a new album, 'Automaton'. It's something of a consolidation of their sound that sounds as fresh now as it ever did, all funk guitars, robotic synths and jazz-like lurches in harmony.
Opener Shake It On sets the tone with its space burbles and processed guitars, punctuated by smooth vocal harmonies and strings. Jay Kay's voice remains as instantly recognisable as ever and there's even a keytar solo. It really is the acid jazz of the early 90s as seen through the rose-tinted filter of today. The title track and lead single shifts into newer territory, its weird belching verses sounding like a robot vomiting before unfurling in a glittering chorus. This is Jamiroquai at their most daring, experimental and modern.
If the title track is representative of the rise of artificial intelligence that inspired the album, the remains of the album is slick, polished disco-funk that hits at the core of humanity: dancing. "I'm walking on air," claims Jay Kay on Cloud 9, whilst on Superfresh he asks "can I get another dance with you?" and on Something About You he feels "like dancin', takin' chances". From the shimmering Summer Girl to the cool midnight air of Dr Buzz, the stuttering jazz bass of We Can Do It to the metallic whirrs of Hot Property, Jamiroquai take us on a cosmic journey through their past highs into another galaxy.
You won't find the sort of pop hooks you remember from their heyday, but it barely matters. 'Automaton' is a complete world of irresistible dance rhythms and alien sounds that looks forward as much as it looks back - just like that new neon headdress. Free from previous label constraints and the high expectations of the pop charts, this is Jamiroquai revelling in exuberant joy. It's simple but it's fun.
But what does Jammyrocky's biggest fan have to say? Dad?
"It's the sort of disco they put on in a club at half time when everybody has tired of dancing and gone to the bar for a drink."
Oh. Please, somebody stop him before he starts a blog or something.
* Hot Property
* Dr Buzz
Listen: 'Automaton' is out now.