I wanted to write this review last Friday – the day Jamiroquai’s Automaton came out. I was so excited for this album and once I gave it my first listen through I sighed. I literally sighed. Why? I didn’t like it.
Let me rewind for a moment. After 2005’s amazing album Dynamite I waited five long years for the follow up only to get 2010’s mediocre Rock Dust Light Star. The album had some great songs but was really lacking overall. I had hoped, with age, that the album would get better and as I listened to RDLS for the past seven years I still think the same thing. There’s some great songs…and there is just a shit ton of mediocre.
When the Automaton and Cloud 9 singles were released I was ecstatic. Both songs were so different and yet so amazing. I was so hyped. After seven years I really felt like I was going to get the album I wanted after Dynamite.
The end result? Well…I don’t think the album is “as bad” as RDLS but I do believe that Automaton the album starts off pretty strong before descending quickly into more mediocre songs. Filler songs. Songs to fill out an album. It doesn’t feel carefully crafted.
I put my album review on hold and started listening to the album over and over. There was no way that this album was just going to be mediocre. I pretty much thought that I had to listen to the album a few times to feel the groove. I had to take my wife around this weekend while her car was in the shop and as she listened to some of the songs she made some remarks like, “He’s phoning it in.”
Was Jay Kay phoning it in? I don’t think so. I think at this point in his life he’s rich as hell and doesn’t need to make music anymore. Having just two albums since 2005 has shown that. Now it isn’t like he wasn’t out there performing but I guess he had no desire to get new stuff out there. Maybe he does it for himself. Maybe he’s still doing it for his fans. If he’s doing it for his fans then I feel bad, as a huge Jamiroquai fan, that I’m so wishy-washy on the album.
The album starts out strong with 4 great songs. Starting with the funky Shake It On, with its amazing chorus, we then go into the two singles Automaton and Cloud 9. Both songs knock it out of the park. We then move into Superfresh which is a really phenomenal electronic dance track. This one would get me off my ass and onto the dance floor. I was so surprised that they hadn’t put Superfresh out as a single, that’s how great it is.
But after that? 8 songs that are…okay. Are they good. I guess. Are they great? No. No they aren’t. Now if you are a diehard Jamiroquai fan reading this going, “You are fucking nuts.” then…you may be right. You can’t say, “You aren’t a fan.” because I’ve been a fan of this band for over twenty years and I’ll remain a fan of this band long after Automaton.
I just feel after the one-two punch of 2001’s A Funk Odyssey and Dynamite that expectations were high for me. RDLS and Automaton just aren’t albums that are satisfying from front to back. AFO and Dynamite both had songs that I thought were okay but for the most part I could jam to nearly every song. I don’t feel that way with Automaton. NOW – over multiple listens of the album I did get to enjoy some of the later songs just a bit more. It’s the middle three songs – Hot Property, Something About You, and Summer Girl – that have become a bit better with multiple listens. But the last third of the album? Yeah man…It’s just….there. Out of the remaining five songs I could kind of get into the song Dr. Buzz but that was really it. I found myself listening to the last five songs just wanting to skip back to track 1 and listen to the first four songs. Then I guess I can listen to the next three. And then want to skip back to track 1 again. It’s that kind of album for me.
Is this album going to be bringing in any new Jamiroquai fans? I’m not sure. I would say doubtful. In the states this album will only be bought by fans and ignored on the charts (except for the dance charts). I would think that it would be more successful in the UK but both singles failed to chart anywhere near where old Jamiroquai songs would chart – I don’t think the phenom Cloud 9 has even charted at all. So does that mean the album won’t sell in the UK? I’m sure it will sell just fine. Does that mean that the days of Jamiroquai charting high in the UK charts are gone? They might be. But who knows.
I like the sound the band is attempting on the record. It’s not the sound that bothers me…it’s just the quality of the songs. I dig the electronic vibe of Shake It On, Automaton, and Superfresh. Do I wish at this point they would have done a whole Daft Punkesque album? Yeah…probably. Considering Daft Punk abandon their own sound for a more organic sound someone should do some sort of Daft Punk (I disliked that Daft Punk album as well…sans the very catchy Get Lucky).
At the end of the day I’m happy there’s new Jamiroquai for me to listen to – even if when I listen I’m going to skip over half the album. Maybe over the next ten years – as I wait for the next Jamiroquai album to come out – the stuff will really grow on me. Or maybe I’ll just put the best of Rock Dust Light Star and Automaton together and just pretend its one big album.
I do know that Superfresh should be the next single. That song is amazing. After that? I’m not quite sure if there are any more singles from this album. But lord knows I know nothing about the record industry these years so I mostly certainly could be very, very, very wrong.
I’ve gone back and forth on a rank for this album. If I had to choose a rank for RDLS I’d put it at a C to C-. That brings Automaton somewhere around a B- to a C. So I think I’ll rank it just a bit higher than average as half the songs on the album are average but other songs do elevate above.