From a British commercial radio perspective, Jamiroquai are a charttopping pop-funk group with a knack for keeping things interesting whilestill staying hugely successful. From an American perspective, they’rejust the band who did that Virtual Insanity song. No group betterrepresents the curious schism of pop taste better than the Atlanticbarrier between Jamiroquai and international stadium tours. They seemto do everything right (the hooks, the looks), but Europe has beentheir hearth throughout their careers – odd for a band who welcomeplenty of American musical traditions in their music.
Rock Dust Light Star is the group’s first album in seven years, andfollows a historic run of seven Top 5 albums in a surprisinglyvenerable 17 years. In what could be considered a sort ofretrospection after a five year hiatus, it embraces the funk and soulvibes of early Jamiroquai work rather than the electro textures thatfollowed the band into the new millennium. And as you’d probablyexpect, they’ve lost any of their innate pop-making abilities- smoothed-out adult contemporary ballads that you can enjoy as muchas you’re willing to disarm yourself to their relative unhipness.
Despite the hate Jamiroquai will continually get, at this point intheir career it’s quite hard to pretend they aren’t good at what theydo; that silky, jazz-funk thing is back again on Rock DustLight Star, which is not a radical departure from what went before, but they’re so good at it you can’t help butgive them some respect. You’re not going to hear a song moreuniversally danceable – at a wedding reception – than Lifeline or White Knuckle Ride all year.
It’s almost rather insidious how perrenial hat-wearer Jay Kay can turn somethingas notoriously disdained as ‘white guy soul’ into something socharismatically lovable. Jamiroquai havewalked that line perfectly, and the songs on Rock Dust Light Starrequire a sustained effort to dislike. It’s designed from the groundup to worm inside your brain and beat your pleasure centressilly.
It’s not album of the year by any means, but it mighthave been just long enough between Jamiroquai releases that Rock DustLight Star sounds refreshing, euphoric, and simply exciting all overagain. The songs are all ridiculously polished, and as well-written asany of the best tracks as anything in the band’s catalogue. The only thing holding the record back from beingtruly great is if you have a preternatural urge to punch Jay Kay (we hear some people suffer so)or a misguided aversion to well-crafted pop. Ifit’s the latter, you’re not listening to music the right way.