Automaton Jamiroquai EMI Few who listened to 2010’s Rock Dust Light Star, Jamiroquai’s seventh album, could have predicted it would herald six years of silence from the British group, although some rusted-on fans maintain the warning signs were there. The album’s funk-rock leanings were the latest — some would say terminal — departure from the group’s socially aware grooves that first emerged on 1993 debut album Emergency on Planet Earth. Add frontman Jay Kay’s admission that he was growing “tired of the business”, and it appeared the band that had led the emerging acid jazz movement in the 90s alongside Brand New Heavies and Incognito had run its course. To be fair, 2010 was, to reference a track from 1994’s Return of the Space Cowboy album, light years away from Stuart Zender’s snappy bass contributions of the mid-90s. By the time 2001’s A Funk Odyssey dropped, line-up changes and commercial success had influenced the group’s output. With heavy nods to disco and funk, singles Little L and Love Foolosophy, with their slick video clips, did well but reinforced a growing divide between Jamiroquai’s urban roots and a more pop-tinged sound. The glorious Seven Days in Sunny June from sixth album Dynamite (2005) was the last memorable hit, before Rock Dust Light Star came, and quickly went. So the giddiness that has greeted Jamiroquai’s re-emergence has more than a little nostalgia attached to it. The “cat in the hat” is back and, pleasingly, the eighth album isn’t half bad. Written and produced by Kay and keyboardist Matt Johnson, Automaton draws inspiration from “the rise of artificial intelligence and technology”. It’s a futuristic aesthetic immediately apparent on the title track, with its intergalactic crunch and intro reminiscent of Giorgio Moroder. While Kay’s inimitable voice has remained front and centre, it has always been the band, in whatever formation, that has been the driving force behind the most memorable jams. It’s no different on Automaton. Paul Turner’s bass work is sublime, while Rob Harris’s crisp guitar shines on second single Cloud 9 in all its smooth, sunny, fuzzy synth and disco glory. Speaking of disco, there’s strings aplenty and eerier synth stabs on opener Shake It On, while Something About You is the album standout, blending a killer bassline with chugging beat and Kay’s lamenting of love lost. Vitamin challenges for top spot, though, its urgent beat, fuzzy bass, winding sax and sublime keys line towards the end making it a moody little number. Dr Buzz and its theme of racial inequality in the US is a return to social commentary for a group that brought us Too Young to Die. Kay has said in early press, “If you hear our stuff, you always know it’s me.” Automaton backs this up. It’s unmistakably Jamiroquai, but it’s no Travelling Without Moving and, despite Kay’s rule to produce “all killer, no filler”, a few tracks fall flat. Ultimately, though, it’s a solid effort that, while nostalgic, induces a good case of the feels.