Four years in the making, an “Dynamite” is an instant classic
In 1994, a pack of cigarette papers emblazoned with the silhouette of a man in a horned Viking hat offered the coolest of all marketing swag––as a promotion for the new group Jamiroquai. More than a decade later, this band, fronted by funky singer Jay Kay, is still smoking. With the new release, “Dynamite,” Kay has proven that time has only made his jam sweeter.
Without exception, every song on this LP sizzles. The opening track, “Feels Just like It Should,” cranks out an industrial, almost ominous grinding groove. Like an old pickup truck turning over, the tune springs into life, rumbling with electronic soul. The effect becomes something like Kool and the Gang hyped up on krump dancing, all overlaying Kay’s earthy, organic groove. By the time Kay hits his break, singing, “You said it would feel this good—and it does,” you can believe those words.
The tune feels like the perfect anthem of our times, an amalgam of ‘70s funk and the best that modern electronica has to offer. You may not know what Kay is singing about, what kind of experience he hopes to get from seeing “the Candyman,” but halfway through this tune, you’ll be dancing too hard to care.
The equally hot title track “Dynamite” follows, also heavy with a Kool and the Gang vibe, mixed with a little Steely Dan, circa “Gaslight Abbey.” The distorted vocal stylings paint the scene of a carefree woman, head thrown back, taking the upper hand in her dealings with men. The rapid-fire exclamations of “dynamite” would make even the “Good Times’” JJ proud.
This same mood is found in “Star Child,” which mixes “Funkytown” with Donna Summer, electric funk guitar and bass punctuated by an Afro-Cuban drum break.
“(Don’t) Give Hate a Chance” has an electronica intro, painting a chaotic scene, with a “Bad Girls” urgency to it. The chorus backing Kay on vocals is positively slick, and the song comes to a haunting close with an a cappella ending. This merges nicely into the following track, “World That He Wants,” which starts out sounding like an old record player crooning out of a single tinny speaker. The far-away sound grows into a lush arrangement, crescendos with piano and strings, then slows down and peters out.
In “Black Devil Car,” Kay turns out a sinister, guitar-heavy track with a playful beat. “Why don’t you let me take a little ride with you?” he asks, in a sing-songy, lullabyish break. Just as you think he’s backed down, the tune busts back out with drums and guitars and a more urgent, “Let me drive your dream till your tank is dry.” Kay calls his sound “filthy,” and the way he draws you in with sweetness only to send you flying off your feet with wicked drums, guitars, and keyboards makes this an apt description.
“Dynamite” vacillates between tight, funky, dark tunes and sweet, irresistible funk ballads like “Seven Days in Sunny June.” This tune rings out with the sound that made Jamiroquai hot, that groovy beat, with a tinge of late ‘70s radio hits by Chicago and REO Speedwagon. In “Seven Days,” Kay tells the bittersweet tale of finally actualizing a long-held crush on a good friend, only to be told a week later that they have been friends too long to be lovers. “His regret is mixed with irony, but it is positively heartbreaking when he sings, “for seven days in June, I wasn’t lonely.”
Other softer songs include “Love Blind” and “Talulah.” The melancholy love tune “Love Blind” starts slow, then merges with a fast, bouncy tune like a classic by The Jackson 5 and finishes with a gospel sound. And “Talulah” begins like Sade’s “Smooth Operator,” with horns and snares. It is propelled along by Kay’s vocals, “She’s gone away, flying out on a jet plane,” which get faster as the song evolves, until he is pleading, “stop that plane, turn it around, I still love you babe/ tell the captain that I’m to blame….”
Jamiroquai spent four years working on making “Dynamite” as tight as possible and every last track shines with their efforts. “If you haven’t had an album out in four years,” says Kay in his press notes, “you want to have an impact, and this says it––I’m back with a vengeance.”