Synkronized – Jamiroquai (1999)

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Jamiroquai released their 4th album “Synkronized” in 1999 which was the follow up to the internationally successful “Travelling Without Moving”.

The group had gone from an Acid Jazz/Funk band to a mainstream pop band with chart hits such as “Virtual Insanity” and “Cosmic Girl” so the pressure was on for the 4th album to continue this rich vain of hit making.

The group’s line up changed when original member Stuart Zender left the band due to conflict with the front man Jay Kay. Some say Jamiroquai never recovered from the loss of Zender and the quality of music decline which with “Synkronized” is hard to argue.

Everything on this album is a lot cleaner in it’s production style and musical direction. The song did produce hits but for long time Jamiroquai fans the jury was out to whether the essence of the group could ever be the same again.

“Canned Heat” opens the album and is one of the biggest and most well known hits in the groups history. Infectiously upbeat with hooks all over the place “Canned Heat” is a storming song. Lyrically the song is simply about dancing your troubles away.

“Planet Home” lyrically harps back to an early Jamiroquai ideal of being conscious about the world we live in but it lacks any depth that comes close to earlier tracks. The bassline on this track is the highlight but the whole thing soon becomes a little boring.

“Black Capricorn Day” is what I always consider the first song in the Jamiroquai chronology to really move away from the original Jamiroquai sound. I call this a Jay Kay track. Yes I know he has written all the other songs too but this is him as if he had gone solo. In fact Jamiroquai from this point really became an outlet for Jay Kay to release his music and it is easy to get into a debate about whether Jamiroquai is a person or a band.

This song starts well but the hook is petty uneventful. Kay attempts to delve into his life and his media perception. As a big Jamiroquai fan this track just never did anything for me and listening to it years on I can’t say my opinion has changed.

“Soul Education” is a more R&B tinged track with a melody that you can’t help thinking you have heard before. Lyrically  follows a similar theme to “Lost In Music” by Sister Sledge with Kay talking about how Soul music is what his life is about and that is the only education he requires.

It’s certainly a lot more catchy and a better effort than the previous two.

Oddly for a group known for their more funky numbers the highlights on this album are the ballads. “Falling” is a wonderful track with a great groove, super production and Kay sounds delightful. If Kay was looking for a more soul music sound on this album he nails it here.

“Destitute Illusions” is mainly an electro instrumental track but for Kay saying near the beginning “You may think you’re in heaven”. I find this track engaing and it is difficult to put into words just why. It is overly long and doesn’t exactly go anywhere but the sonic bar is raised with an instrumental which drags you in. I find best to listen to in the dark whilst driving – as pretentious as that sounds!.

Track 7 is “Supersonic”. This is where this album attempts to try to do something extremely different but just ends up in one hot mess. The popular didgeridoo played by Wallis Buchanan on all previous Jamiroquai albums is back again but this song lack any soul and any funk to what I fell in love with Jamiroquai for.

According to Wikipedia the song repeats the word ‘supersonic’ 127 times. I try to find good in this track but never enjoyed it.

“Butterfly” like “Falling” works a whole lot better. Whilst the lyrics in the chorus are all a bit meaningless the feel of the track retains a more engaging groove and there is a much more soulful element to Kay’s delivery.

“Where Do We Go From Here” sounds like a rip off of every disco song from the 70’s. It’s certainly fun and much more upbeat than anything we have heard on this set since the opening track. Musically it all comes together well with the piano at the start and the awesome bassline. This is one of the brighter moments on what has been a quite dour album.

“King For A Day” is again not a song you would associate with Jamiroquai doing. It has no elements of funk, soul or disco. It is a bland ballad where Jay Kay basically slags off Stuart Zender for leaving the band. To make things worse Kay released this as a single.

The bonus track on the album is “Deeper Underground” which was made for the movie “Godzilla”. This song became the biggest Jamiroquai song and the groups only UK number one. It’s not a funk song. It has nothing to do with disco or boogie of any sort. It is catchy and I’ve seen the live performances of this track and they are excellent. The song loses it’s way half way through but the first half is big bold and memorable.

 

Overall “Synkronized” was a bit of a let down. After such an album like “Travelling Without Moving” there was much anticipation for the follow up but Jay Kay sadly seemed to disappear up his own backside with this album.

There are high points of course but the follow up “A Funk Odyssey” is a much more rounded project which saw a return to form for Jamiroquai.

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