ReCollect: Jamiroquai, Synkronized
A full quarter-century after the release of their first single, Jamiroquai have released a new album today: ‘Automation’. So it seems timely to revisit the album which many consider features their signature acid jazz sound for which they will always be remembered.
Synkronized was released in 1999, the final year before the new millennium, and a time of nervous energy. We had the establishment of the euro, the sacking of Glenn Hoddle as England manager, Tony Blair’s ongoing popularity and the car manufacturer Rover releasing the 25 and the 45. Ah, how times have changed. But back then times were good or at least they seem so in retrospect. And the album, with its cosmic energy and Jay Kay’s hedonistic showmanship, reflects the buoyant mood of Rule Britannia.
1. Canned Heat
2. Planet Home
3. Black Capricorn Day
4. Soul Education
6. Destitute Illusions
9. Where Do We Go From Here?
10. King For A Day
11. Deeper Underground
It all kicks off with 'Canned Heat'...
…a pop tune, and unashamedly so. But it’s a really good one and I’ve listened to it three times in last 15 minutes without getting bored, so… that speaks for itself. Then the album tunnels deeper and finds a depth I didn’t heretofore associate with the group. I’ll hold my hands up: I previously looked at their well-known songs and considered them shiny and zany and good on the surface. But they often failed to achieve resonance with the soul as all great music does. Listening to Synkronized from start to finish has shown me that a) albums are definitely worth spending your time on and b) this band made some really good music.
'Planet Home', 'Soul Education' and 'Where Do We Go From Here?'...
…are the most obviously jazz-influenced of the tracklist. ‘Destitute Illusions’ sounds as if it was made in space and brought back to earth with the specific intention to soundtrack a 1980s arcade game. And ‘Supersonic’ is its close cousin, created here on earth but built to provide the backdrop to a Peruvian shaman’s spirit journey. ‘Black Capricorn’, ‘Butterfly’, ‘Falling’ and ‘King For A Day’ are where the pace changes; they’re laid back tracks which add the variety of tempo that makes the album a piece of art as opposed to mere entertainment.
And then of course we’ve got the monster (sorry) hit ‘Deeper Underground’ that reached number 1. With its gloriously distorted guitar riff and double-time drums at the bridge, it contains lyrics that could be taken for a critique on millenarian existentialism. Instead, it soundtracked a movie about a giant dinosaur.
It’s easy to forget, as it is with all bands that don’t quite garner the status of “Great”, just how ubiquitous Jamiroquai were in the 90s and early 2000s. They wrote three UK number 1 albums (and two number 2s), had nine top 10 singles and sold 35 million albums worldwide. Their music was the backdrop to a specific period in British culture that many of us now look back on with affectionate nostalgia: a gold-tinted moment when the nation’s future seemed on the up. While the hope of that era lasted only fleetingly, Synkronized has avoided the tarnish of time.