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Jungle - 'Jungle'
The elusive London duo's debut is a surefire summer party-starter but comes with a subtle dark side
In fact, the question of whether Jungle's rise was the result of DIY talent and nous that got them noticed by label XL or a web-savvy soft marketing campaign is pretty much the only mystery left. We now know that T and J are Tom McFarland and Joshua Lloyd-Watson, childhood skater friends from Shepherd’s Bush with a history of dissecting classic records together and playing reformed Britpop in a band called Born Blonde, once memorably described as “the baggy, space-rock Brother”. Such exposure should crush the intrigue and wonder, but now they've only gone and made the pop-art album of the summer.
‘Jungle’ is a record designed to seep from barbeques the breadth of 2014, an ultra-modern rewiring of funk for Generation Y. The falsetto space funk of opener ‘The Heat’, ‘Platoon’ and the irrepressible ‘Busy Earnin’’ you’ll know already, and they’re matched strut-for-strut by ‘Time’ and ‘Julia’ to make a swathe of colourful party pumpers destined to ram this year’s festival tents like Disclosure touring Trinidad, with their distorted steel drums, tropical crackles and washes of sparkling-surf synth.
What’s really intriguing about ‘Jungle’, though, is its darker side. There's a tone of inner-city malaise, romantic ruin and psychedelic alienation to a raft of its tracks that speaks to those modern urbanites feeling screen-wiped and robbed of opportunities, busy earnin’ for nothing. It’s the sound of a 21st Century ‘What’s Going On’, a sister-piece to Bobby Womack’s Albarn-produced ‘The Bravest Man In The Universe’, and it’s encapsulated in the atmospheric interlude ‘Smoking Pixels’, a Morricone reboot resembling a electro-fried amalgam of The Beatles’ ‘Long, Long, Long’, Pink Floyd’s ‘Echoes’ and The Specials’ ‘Ghost Town’. But it also infects the lovelorn ‘Julia’ with a trip-hop undertone and ‘Accelerate’ with boudoir broodiness. It drips through the downbeat future jazz of ‘Drops’ and 110th Street shuffle ‘Son Of A Gun’ and throbs at the bruised heart of ‘Lucky I Got What I Want’. Indeed, from jubilant beginnings, ‘Jungle’ seems to follow the collapse of a relationship in its latter half and ends in heartbroken desolation, sat alone on the edge of ‘Lemonade Lake’ lamenting “every day and every night/’Cos I don’t know what went wrong/I miss you”. A rounded future pop record then; funky and reflective, ominous and ecstatic, as pouty as it is party.
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