English bassist John Wardle has devoted more than thirty years of his life to ducking and diving through various corners of fringe music. The closest he ever came to the mainstream was his brief involvement with Public Image Ltd, a band that carried much weight in the early ’80s thanks to one former Sex Pistol frontman equipped with a knack for flamboyance. After the initial PiL lineup went their separate ways, Wardle wandered between bands and genres, one of which being his own funk-meets-dub-meets-worldbeat project known as the Invaders of the Heart. After a few albums in the ’90s and a couple more right after the turn of the millennium, Wardle seemed to put the band and its ever-shifting lineup on indefinite hold. After a brief reunion with his former PiL bandmate Keith Levene, Jah Wobble (his stage name, adapted from a drunken Sid Vicious’s attempt to say his name) has regathered the Invaders of the Heart and took to the crowdsourcing site PledgeMusic to finance the album Everything Is No Thing. And compared to the Invaders of the Heart projects of the past, it is tightly honed to the point where some of Wobble’s unique traits get excluded.
This doesn’t make Everything Is No Thing a deal breaker. It’s still aesthetically fun and musically impressive in its own small way. It burns with a bright energy and further makes the case that Jah Wobble is a restless soul on an endless search for a good sound (as if we needed any reminders). Everything Is No Thing is some highly-polished jazz fusion where the quirkier aspects of Wobble’s dub and worldbeat tendencies are finely sanded down to hints rather than flavors. Again, not a bad thing. But if you were hoping for another Without Judgement, that Invaders of the Heart album with 21 songs that lasted over an hour, you won’t find such sprawl in 2016. Everything Is No Thing has ten songs, runs 48 minutes in length, and is tight as a drum because of it.
You can think the great Tony Allen for that. Only a handful of current drummers can announce their presence through a few rudimentary taps on a snare drum, and Allen is one of them. The former Fela Kuti timekeeper is a perfect fit for the sessions and Wobble makes sure not to waste him. Marc Layton-Bennett provides more drumming while Sean Corby, Chet Doxus, Nik Turner, and Alex Ward color the middle with trumpet, saxophones, and flute. Keyboardist Michael Rendall and producer Martin “Youth” Glover help to pull it all together into a groovy outfit. Sometimes their sense of rhythm can be just a tease, like on the Caribbean-tinged closer “Spheres, Spirals & Pyramids”. At other times, you think that Parliament went and crashed the sessions like on the irresistibly funky “Mandala”. Much of the remaining material gently glides down the middle of the two moods, giving fusion acts like Spyro Gyra a potential run for their money. “Cosmic Love”, the lone track with vocals, plays more to band chemistry than any individual showcasing. And although singer Aurora Dawn does sound good, the lyrics are harmlessly lame: “Cosmic love will set you free / The truth will come to you and me.”
While Everything Is No Thing isn’t going to rewrite Jah Wobble’s future to any great extent, it will probably help seal a positive reputation within the jazz-inclined circles of worldbeat music. If that all sounds too academic, keep in mind that the music on this album is far more fun and groovy than any description of it can portray. Give it a spin and you may very well find yourself spinning in turn.