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Jamiroquai Automaton Virgin EMI

Jamiroquai’s frontman Jay Kay presents himself as a man of the world, combining streetwise knowledge with roguish charm under a big gnome-y hat. Sometimes, he pulls it off. Will he with Automaton, their first album in seven years?

Reportedly, Automaton sees Kay taking that nous and aiming it at the apparently excessive influence of technology on our lives. But on opener Shake It On, Jay Kay ruminates on the difficulties of pushing our limits before truly knowing ourselves: ‘I need to find out where I am before I reach the stars/ yeah, before I step on Mars’. Not even a clavinet – perhaps the funkiest instrument in the world – can obscure these bizarrely terrible lyrics, and the dumpy production, hemmed in by too-rigidly quantised percussion. The ‘maybe technology is bad’ theme continues in the title track, which has decent Soulwax-y synth work through the verses ruined by a weak chorus and an excruciating middle-aged-rap. Dr Buzz sees Jay allude to Black Lives Matter, and while Jamiroquai have the capacity for witty pop songs with a coherent political message, unfortunately Dr Buzz just isn’t one of them.

The rest of Automaton is primarily mushy pap with elements of disco, funk and acid jazz, occasionally enlivened with the trendiest synthesiser lines of 2007. Jay Kay’s libido also makes an unwelcome appearance in Hot Property and Summer Girl. In the end, the lairy playboy of the 90s has become the randy dad of 2017. While this album has some good elements, the overall effect is to put the ‘why?’ in Jamiroquai.