At a friend’s birthday party someone had put on J Dilla’s Donuts and, midway through the album, I discretely switched to UK band Jungle’s Debut and at first nobody even noticed, so smoothly did they segue. Then someone was like, “what is this? It’s sweet!” as they nodded and grooved appreciatively. Not that Jungle could ever be mistaken for Detroit’s legendary hip-hop producer, but they seem to have a lot of the same colours on their palette; and draw their water from the same well of soul-accented funk. But Jungle is mostly focused – indeed, to an almost excrutiating degree – on falsetto vocals and disco beats.
The singles – “Time,” “the Heat,” “Busy Earnin’,” are catchy enough to be popular for a while and would fit well in a party playlist, but listening to the album cover to cover the tracks all start to blend together, and the majority of it is completely forgettable. The production and technical aspects are competent, but there is nothing really original going on here. Comparably, Daft Punk‘s Random Access Memories has a retro, disco-y feel but with a mischevious wink and suppressed giggle within that sets it a notch above; Jungle’s debut, on the other hand, feels more like insipid, mimetic posturing that takes itself way too seriously and tries way too hard.
The group performs live as a seven piece band but is mostly the product of a core duo who call themselves “T” and “J”, whose identities are “secret”, sort of – they don’t go as far as wearing masks when they perform, but their videos seem to consist mainly of black people doing hip-hop dancing in track suits, and “T” and “J” are about as white as it gets. Not that race or cultural appropriation is an issue here, and I wouldn’t even bring it up if I wasn’t trying to boost my wordcount for such a repetitive, overlong and mediocre release.
As I said, the singles are enjoyable, if not exactly groundbreaking or challenging, but there just isn’t enough dynamic variety to garner a full-length album. One’s ADHD starts kicking in well before the half-way mark as the tracks all seem to be the same BPM and have the same beat, and the lyrics are about as deep as a kiddie pool. It’s all just really low-res; in the background, at a distance, it’s smooth and groovy for head-bopping and booty-shaking but if you look at it too closely all you see is the pixels. But you should check out the video for “Platoon”, which has an amazing and adorably badass break-dancing routine by a six year-old girl, and is a joy to watch. Maybe if Jungle released choreographed dance numbers for each of their tracks they’d get a better grade; as it is, this full-length just isn’t going to float.