This post ran originally on THUMP UK. Comebacks are strange, aren't they? The return of the prodigal son, or sons, has become a disproportionately large part of the cultural landscape since the millennial slide into a nostalgia-as-godhead mindset became all-pervasive. All we long for now it seems, is to be perpetually comforted by the re-emergence of that which has already been. That which we can clutch to like a battered teddy in the face of a grisly and drawn-out divorce. We want the Beatles back and turkey twizzlers back and fauvism back and given half the chance we'd happily take S Club 7, MC Hammer, and cholera back too.
While I get that revisiting old things is often nice and calming, and that most new things are, to be blunt, fucking terrible, there's one hotly-tipped and highly anticipated revival that I cannot get behind in any capacity whatsoever: Jamiroquai.
How, I've found myself wondering in recent weeks, could anyone muster up enthusiasm for the return of the space cowboy? What was the appeal of Jay Kay and his ragtag assemblage of acid-jazz musos in the first place? Didn't he just make wishy-washy funk-lite designed purely for early-evening wine bars in the provinces? More importantly, why has he got the band back together now? Is this really what Brexit Britain was crying out for—the chance for an already incredibly wealthy man to add to his already incredibly well-stocked luxury car collection? David Cameron didn't die for this!
After a period of stabalization, I accepted that for music lovers of a certain age, Jamiroquai making a comeback in 2017 was a chance to indulge in a relatively harmless form of nostalgia. Parents across the country will get to drive to B&Q on bank holiday weekends, fondly remembering the time they gave BDSM a go to the sounds of Travelling Without Moving, sparking a sudden upsurge in DIY-center related accidents. Those lucky enough to have nabbed tickets for one of the upcoming mega-shows at The O2 arena will probably have a cracking night that begins with dinner at Zizzi's and ends with precisely three £8 pints. That, I accept. If you were between 14 and 20 when Jay Kay first moonwalked into public consciousness, feel free to sing along to every word of Automaton when it plops into the world in a few months. Go wild. Crack open a second bottle of pinot, get bhajis and lamb chops. Relive your youth.
What is slightly more troubling, though, in terms of both Jamiroquai specifically and the nostalgia industry at large, is seeing the bending-over-backwards that people'll do to latch onto pretty much anything that finds its way onto more than three websites. I have seen people—people born after Thatcher mutated into Major, people who were testicular remnants when Blackburn won the Premier League, people who were chowing down on Cow & Gate during the BSE crisis, children basically—positively scream with joy at the return of Jamiroquai.
Sure, they were probably sentient when "Virtual Insanity" slid into the charts like a bejewelled eel, and being charitable they might have got stoned in their second year at the University of Derby and watched fifteen minutes of Godzilla before being having a massive, massive whitey and crying for their mum. But I'm still perplexed as to why exactly Jamiroquai is exciting the near-youth of today. The actual youth, of course, are too busy sexually experimenting with one another on Minecraft and expanding their woke-gland with Teen Vogue subscriptions. Is it borne of an actual desire to withhold a "Cosmic Girl," and a real belief in Jay Kay's half-baked "Love Foolosophy?" Or does it come from the dank recess of the ironic pit our generation find themselves trying to claw out of day after day? I decided to set about asking peers and colleagues what they made of the funkadelic hat-stand.
"Whenever I think of Jamiroquai I think of Seth Green in Josie and the Pussycats—i.e. small man with slimline beard and extravagant hat—which is always a nice surprise for me but probably not a connection he'd be pleased to know exists," one young writer told me. You'd have to imagine that Jay Kay probably wouldn't react to the comparison with good grace, no. Jay Kay, one senses, is a man who holds himself in incredibly high regard. Which is why we've kept this writer's identity secret.
Said writer doesn't quite get the hype, either, but in this case the distrust stems for an innate disparity between the look and sound of the outfit. "For me, hearing Jamiroquai and seeing Jamiroquai are two very different experiences. My physical response to "Canned Heat" is to tap a foot, perhaps hoist an index finger in the air and wag it to the beat, do a cheeky, gentle twirl in the kitchen on the way to open a cupboard," she says. So far so gentle. Then comes the hammer blow. "My response to seeing actual Jamiroquai, however, is pretty much always "huh, the art college dropout I used to buy my MDMA off has done well for himself."
So, Jamiroquai sound OK, sort of, in the same way that cheap fishcakes and Watchdog are OK, but that's not enough to justify genuine excitement is it? Mitchell Stevens, a writer, record label owner, DJ, and Jamiroquai nut sees things differently. Very differently, in fact. "Jay Kay is almost definitely the closest thing we have to James Bond," Stevens tells me. "He's a icon," he says. "Not all heroes wear tuxedos, some wear shell suits and fuck off massive headdresses.
Tuxedos are fine, headdresses are alright, too, I guess, but what about the music, Mitch? You can't be slapping your Macbook with glee every time you see another snippet of Jay Kay news just because of the millinery and the suits, surely? "The reason why I love Jamiroquai's music is because it completely flies in the face of everything that it is to be British," he says. "Our weather is always shit, but their music sounds like summer. We're supposed to be insubordinately dry and rigid, but there's something about Jamiroquai's music that can make anyone dance, from me when I was 10 years old, to your dad pissed up off cheap Tuborg at the local Spoons."
While he might be wrong about the group's ability to turn anyone into Travolta, the idea that their music is innately twinned with that most mythical of things—the British summer—goes some way to explaining why the comeback's been met with wide-opened-arms. For a certain kind of person, for a lot of people in fact, Jamiroquai's unchanging and unchallenging approach to pop-funk is a reminder of all their dearly-held memories of summers that were and never will be again.
This, of course, is why nostalgia continues to wrap its shiny tendrils around our weak necks. Nostalgia is just hindsight viewed through a pair of sunglasses you got free with The Beano, and there's an argument to be made that indulging in these flights of fantasy—hovering over childhood, landing in late-adolescence, trying to negate the the turbulence of adulthood—is fine, as long as they don't dominate our cultural lives. That said, surely some things are better left in the past. Let the memories sprout roots, let them be still, untouched, in the past. Oh, and the new Jamiroquai single is fucking bollocks, too.