Album Reviews

Unklejam – Unklejam

(Virgin) UK release date: 15 October 2007

Unklejam are a good example of the diversity available in British pop music at the moment. The trio, born out of a couple of chance meetings between Tyson Speede, Bobby Stearns and Adonistar, make music conscious of its past, but presenting an impressive unity for the future.

If all that sounds a bit lofty, give it a listen. An early statement of intent comes from the single What Am I Fighting For?, a resilient and feisty number with a gritty bass line. But these guys are flexible and able to adapt to several styles, and in Luving U that means a deeply felt love song without any slush but with a chord change that tugs at the heartstrings.

The advantage of a band with such diversity is the range of influences they bring to the table. While the predominant style could be described as urban soul, there are shades of Motown, P-Funk and more modern R&B. Melodies and lyrics are expressive, but are usually delivered through a streetwise grit that means they pack more of a punch.

Cry is one song to shy away from that, with an endearing vulnerability to the vocal. “I don’t see your smiling face, just an empty space” sings Stearns, his souful delivery with a pleasing hint of Marvin Gaye, the backing offering a touch of gospel, a tasteful trumpet solo completing the package. It’s an indication of the optimism felt throughout this record, however, that the track ends with more of a smile on its face than a frown.

Unklejam are aware of their heritage, and The Touch references River Deep Mountain High before a big rhythm and biting bassline sends it on its way. Digging deep seems to be the theme here, with Stearns noting that “I can’t run no more” before the heavy footed chorus kicks in.

What comes to mind on more than one occasion is that this is the record Big Brovaz should have made, a series of songs with attitude, melody and soul that deliver in considerable style and provide several air punching moments. Unklejam may not receive the plaudits they deserve for this fine slice of street soul, but should be given a chance to grow – there’s plenty of potential here.

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