Tuesday, 29 July 2014
Record Label: XL Recordings
Release Date: 14th July 2014
Heavily hyped London duo launch a debut that breeds unashamed confidence and style, but falls short in terms of being as special as some have deemed
There's something rather dated about making a serious point about anonymity in music in 2014. As far as marketing gimmicks go, it's a pretty well-worn idea. Burial and Zomby have been flying the flag for their dark post-dubstep shapes since their very, ahem, *appearance*, and on a less renowned level Dragged Into Sunlight have hurried away from any kind of pin point media limelight. Josh Lloyd-Watson and Tom Macfarland, the two friends who, on paper at least, make up Jungle, have only just been identified as such, after a rather vivid attempt at mysterious anonymity that actually, well, didn't really pay off. I mean, if they were hoping for small levels of speculation as to what two relatively ordinary blokes from London looked like then fine, but one suspects that the endeavour was more scripted than that.
Thus comes forth their self-titled debut record, and alas faces can now be applied to names. If Jungle's attempts at identity-classification did very little to add to their character, then there are a handful of tunes on this album that go much further. The subject of influence throughout 'Jungle' is somewhat of a taboo, duly because the records Lloyd-Watson and Macfarland obviously treasure are hinted at so unashamedly on the duo's sleeves a lot of the time, but there are songs here that forge a sense of own-branded identity. There's still something irrevocably addictive about the multi-layered and textured synth heaviness of 'Busy Earnin'', and the glitchy approach to cut-n-paste sampling and soulful euphoria that grips 'Julia' screams "THIS IS JUNGLE" more vitally than anything else on offer here. 'Son of a Gun' and the more expansive and smoother 'Lucky I Got What I Want' too, are pleasantly singular.
But back to that old-chestnut of originality. Sometimes the lack of anything really unique works in their favour; 'Crumbler' is a relatively gorgeous soft-funk sex ballad that is precisely great because it's stripped of all pretension. Even with its tinges of '80s daytime TV show soundtrack 'Accelerate' passes as a well pieced lo-fi summer crawl.
But opener 'The Heat', with its slinky bass-line, reverb shrouded noodling and colourful synth flourishes, although concreting a pretty aesthetic for the rest of the album, is far less original than perhaps Jungle believe. The slightly more shady 'Platoon', with its maleficent goad of "I'll knock you down, brother", could fit on, well, any TV On The Radio record really. There's something genuinely appealing about the winding, rhythmic lurch of 'Drops' but it runs its tracks far too close to James Blake-esque blubbery.
The thing about 'Jungle' is that, if you listen to any of the artists the band cite as major influences- J Dilla, Prince, etc.- and then go back and listen to it, those pioneering artists' DNA will kick out hard enough to crack a nerve in your brain that says "actually, I might go and listen to 'Sign of the Times'". There are some brilliant songs here, but unfortunately Jungle's oeuvre seems a bit too contrived to really do this often rather ordinary album justice. As is the case with any young band travelling a slightly left-of-the-dial path, there's plenty of room for growth; let's just hope they turn further left than heading straight for the Radio 1 A Playlist.
Key Tracks: 'Julia', 'Crumbler', 'Busy Earnin''
For Fans Of: Prince, TV On The Radio, Michael Jackson