The Funk Is Here To Stay

Picture this: it’s Friday 31 March 2017, just before lunch. I’ve waited patiently inside all day for a delivery I’m very excited about. I need to be there to take it myself, I’ve been waiting far too long for it to be dropped off with the neighbours next door. It’s roughly 12:30, and Mum will be back from work soon. I advance towards the front door, somehow sensing that the arrival of my hotly-anticipated parcel is imminent…and then I make out the postman’s orange high-visibility jacket through the translucent pane of glass. He rings the doorbell, and I answer. I restrain my excitement for a moment as I politely take the package from him and we exchange pleasantries. He sets off down the driveway towards his trolley, and it’s safe to close the door and let my glee run wild. At once, I set the item down on the carpet and tear wildly at the cardboard around it, ignoring all of the packaging’s instructions on how to safely remove its contents. Seconds later, it lies there in front of me – pristine, shiny, and a long time in the making, it is the latest Jamiroquai album, Automaton, on brand new vinyl.

This record was a long time in the making for the band (yes, they are a band – so kindly stop referring to Jamiroquai as “he”), meaning that for myself and all of their fans worldwide, almost seven years had passed without any new material. Their previous effort, Rock Dust Light Star, was released in November 2010, so it was an almighty relief when the banging first single and title track from the new album finally showed itself in January. I’ve had it on near-continuous repeat on Spotify ever since, such is its magnificence, and to hear it on the radio for the first time was to experience Jamiroquai’s music as a bona-fide proper fan for the first time. I got into them between the last album and this one, thanks to Mum of all people, and in particular the Magic Summertime compilation CD she had for the car – which was full of tracks the people behind it must have identified as the most summery songs out there. Among them was one Jamiroquai song, namely my personal favourite, their 1999 hit “Canned Heat”. As soon as I heard it, I knew I had to have it, and that I needed to start exploring the Space Cowboys’ back catalogue. I thereafter devoured every record I could just as much as I did Automaton when I put disc one on the turntable for the first time. The singles collection High Times, released in 2006, receives particularly high airplay on my iPod. But no matter where I find and enjoy these songs, and regardless of the format they present themselves in, they’ll always have a deeper significance for me.

Above all else, they make you feel good. That’s a very straightforward verdict, I know, but for me that’s a gateway to memories new and old, and they’ll make me smile however small they may be because I’m able to link them to Jamiroquai in some way. To hear “White Knuckle Ride” and its euphoric-sounding chorus takes me back to times at College when I was carefree and able to laugh with my friends all day long in the height of summer – as does “Canned Heat”, which I think my peers were mostly familiar with thanks to its use in Napoleon Dynamite. Whenever “Cosmic Girl” is played I think of Jay Kay, the coolest cat around, winding his purple Lamborghini around Spanish mountain roads in the music video, as well as – you guessed it – a rather cosmic girl I used to know. “Feels Just Like It Should” transports me to when I must have been about 8, when I remember hearing it on the radio once and not knowing what the song was or who was performing it, but still thinking that it was awesome with its beatbox intro, hip-hop style beat and funky guitar parts. I knew I wanted to hear it again one day, and was pleased when I eventually became a fan and rediscovered it to listen away to my heart’s content. As I have already said, I do connect some of Jamiroquai’s music to smaller, more everyday events – when I last went into the local card shop to buy someone’s birthday card, “Little L” was playing in the background. I left thinking they had very good taste indeed.

Alongside the memories that the songs evoke, there is of course the musical variety of the band itself that I so greatly admire. In my eyes, three of the most notable examples of this are the addictive buzzsaw bassline in their funk rock-style 1998 chart-topper “Deeper Underground”, the orchestral grandiosity of “King For a Day” and the didgeridoo that opens and fills their very first single, “When You Gonna Learn?” They can go all the way from straightforward retro funk to fully modern dance-pop anthems like the “Automaton” single, always making sure there’s something fresh to come with every album and scooping up millions of loyal followers while they’re at it – as well as millions more album sales to add to the 25 million they’ve already notched up. Regardless of how much more there may be to come from Jamiroquai, they’ll very much have a large presence in my life thanks to both the music and the memories. I can definitely say that as far as I’m concerned, the funk is here to stay.

“Sends me into hyperspace, when I see her pretty face” – “Cosmic Girl”, Jamiroquai.

Mason

 

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