Review Summary: Funky, fresh, and full of surprises, Jamiroquai show here that they are capable of much more than catchy singles.
Growing up during the 1990's, I shared a commonality with many young people of the generation: I wanted my MTV. Of course the past decade's music television was a completely different beast from the plethora of reality trash that pollutes the channel today. If you were as avid a watcher as I, you likely remember not only a time where music videos were regularly available but a time when the videos were actually enjoyable. Among the 90's there are video classics cemented adamantly to MTV from bands such as Nirvana
, the Smashing Pumpkins
or even Blind Melon
There is one particular video that nobody could have missed had they been tuning in, one that is easily recognizable and memorable alike. The visage of claustrophobic white walls and shifting floors and the one-take concentration on the effortlessly suave guy in the strange hat. Almost way too cool for his own good, the dancing Jay Kay slipping past the gliding furniture and defying the movement beneath isn't something I have to describe. Regardless of what you were into at the time this was new, this was interesting and this captured your attention from the very get-go with the modest piano melody introduction. And, really, who didn't want to get into that room themselves!?
While it's no surprise to me that the aforementioned video for Virtual Insanity
became so successful, what is odd is that a lot of people don't know much more about the band Jamiroquai outside of it. Of course there are cheers for Canned Heat
from "Napoleon Dynamite
" and the infamous dance scene, and if you're really good you may remember a video of lesser hype released around the same time for the song Alright
. As catchy as the lead single is, the remainder of Travelling Without Moving
turns out to be much more than a collection of toss-aways but a surprisingly strong set complete with indulgences of funk, jazz, and even some didgeridoo.
What must be mentioned first is how tight and together the band actually sounds, everything from the sweetly smooth vocal delivery from Kay to the dangerously funky thumping bass and synths that just dance circles around the whole thing. It's plainly apparent that Kay is in fact holds a prominent role as the more outstanding member of the band, in fact everyone knows somebody who at one point genuinely believed Jamiroquai to be his
name (or was that person themselves). Instrumentally, however, you're going to hear everything from funky wah-wahs and jungle rhythms in the more upbeat of songs such as Use the Force
, as well as keys that tickle addictive melodies (Virtual Insanity
) and somber bass grooves (Everyday
While the album itself is very tight, it would difficult and reasonably lengthy to dive into each song as the momentum can (and will) shift at any point. The variation from song style to the next isn't quite as an extreme as in the case of, say a Gorillaz
album, but they could be arguably akin to a certain degree in this sense. Yes, the presence of an indubitably (acid) jazz or funk foundation seeps its way into all of the tracks but Jamiroquai harness the ability to bob your head one minute and threaten to get you dancing the next. After three tracks of feel good funk, including the somewhat disco-esque Cosmic Girl
, the listener gets to relax a bit with the serene ballad Everyday
Toward the middle of the disc there is a distinct turn in the entire album that initiates in the pure reggae groove of Drifting Along
. One of the finer points of Kay's vocal flexibility lies in this track, whose voice floats ever so lightly over the laid back upstrum and easy-going bass. From here things transition into Didjerama
, which of course features the infamous didgeridoo as the vocal point, churning and droning with tribal drum beats accompanying it. This track is obviously a very stark contrast to the previous get-up-and-groove feeling only two songs earlier and, in order to keep the interest flowing, the band incorporates yet another wonderful transition from here. Didjital Vibrations
enters via the sound of rainfall left from its sister track Didjerama
and delivers as the smoothest track on the album. The very definition of chill, ultra funky grooves emanate here and rise from the bass while the didgeridoo returns to swell along with soft, soothing vocal harmonies.
The title track, which follows the subdued trio of tracks, wakes up the listener and serves as a reminder that these guys can rock. Appropriately enough, this one is perhaps the most rock-oriented song on the album even when it is strutting through the chorus, which feels just as cool as watching Kay traveling without moving, if you will, in the video for Virtual Insanity
. From here it is soon that the album's end comes modestly with Spend A Lifetime
, a quiet piano centered ballad with string synths and once again Kay's disarming head voice.
There is a little more to the album that I will leave to the listener and that is the inclusion of a bonus track or two. Different versions of the album are designated with one of or both tracks Do You Know Where You're Coming From
. My copy has the former, which feels much like a nice encore song, but I do not have Funktion and cannot know if the listener will or will not have either. This is of little consequence because the official track list has such a strong offering that if you've made your way to track twelve chances are you won't mind being treated to an extra or two. Simply put: this is damn good stuff. Sure, we already know that everyone loves Virtual Insanity
and, thanks to Napoleon, Canned Heat
as well but this is a really good pick-up for those who like what they've heard and are interested in hearing what Jamiroquai is all about.
Travelling Without Moving