Music

Jamiroquai: 2001: A Funk Odyssey

Kirsten Koba

Jamiroquai

2001: a Funk Odyssey

Label: Epic
US Release Date: 2001-09-11
Amazon
iTunes

Jamiroquai's fifth album, 2001: A Funk Odyssey, is an intergalactic break dance across a lighted disco floor. Dipping and spinning, it flirts with Bootsy Collins, steals moves from Stevie Wonder, rubs elbows with the Basement Jaxx, and casts shy glances at Elton John. While Jay Kay, the tree-hugging, gas-guzzling front man has changed silly hats once again on this album, the familiar disco-funk hasn't received such an overhaul. Much like the last four releases, 2001 is bland background party music with a few moments that sparkle (as long as there are enough drugs at the club).

The album opens with "Feels So Good", a polyester journey through outer space. Wind chimes twinkle in a swirling black hole, high-hats deliver saltshaker beats over a bubbly funk bass, and clucking tribal sounds flow into an electro breakdown. It's an effortless blend of funk reverence and high-tech dance gadgetry that smoothly sets up the rest of the album. Throughout this 48-minute LP, groovy bass lines, gooey back-up singers, and disco hand claps slip into high-speed blips and Daft Punk-esque computerization. This funkadelic recipe should be the basis for a great dance record, but 2001 still manages to fall flat.

Or maybe Jamiroquai just pulls off the techno-disco combo too well. After all, both genres are prone to cheesiness and over-production, and 2001: A Funk Odyssey is so slick it's farcical. With luminous brass and a synthetic symphony, the album takes on an epic quality comparable to the score of a Disney musical. This ridiculous grandeur peaks with "Corner of the Earth", a laughable love letter to Jay Kay's home that combines a "cowboy riding into the sunset" beat with Saturday Night Fever orchestration and plenty of ooh-ahh-la-la-las.

The merger of over-the-top disco silliness with starship sound effects serves as a metaphor for Jay Kay's own dichotomies. Kay spews eco-consciousness to a nauseating level (the band name reflects his empathy for the displaced Iroquois and their Earth-loving ideals), yet he owns a slew of super-powered sports cars and an ultra-posh country home. And 2001: A Funk Odyssey has as many references to Kay's celebrity ex-girlfriend, Denise Van Outen, as it does to recycling.

But it's not like the lyrical content matters that much anyway -- Jay Kay's environmental rants simply get lost in the fluff. Even with songwriting help from newest band member, Rob Harris, lyrics such as "Like every hummingbird and bumblebee, every sunflower, cloud and every tree / Nature's got me high and it's beautiful" are best ignored. As with Jamiroquai's previous albums, 2001 is more concerned with having fun than making meaningful social change.

The major difference between 2001: A Funk Odyssey and Travelling Without Moving or Synkronized, is the lack of didgeridoo meandering. Yet in an attempt to remain as multicultural as they are corny, the band has picked up bossa nova beats and jazzy guitar work on "Black Crow" and eastern bells on "Corner of the Earth". A few songs even manage to break out of smiley land and unveil a level of grittiness. "Stop! Don't Panic" and "2001" are charged with dirty beats, distorted guitar synths, and ray-gun aggression, adding energy to an otherwise predictable album. 2001:A Funk Odyssey ends appropriately with the hyper-speed disco jam, "Do It Like We Used to Do". Jay Kay may be spinning a little faster and kicking a little higher, but ultimately his dance moves haven't changed a bit.

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image