More of the same from London funkers...
'For Ever'

For artists releasing their debut album, everything in their life has led up to that point. All the lessons, experiences, relationships and influences come together to create a document that summarises all that has gone before. That’s why it’s no surprise that some of the best debut albums have landed in our laps with a sound and aesthetic that’s so fully fleshed-out, honed and realised. And so it proved with Jungle; their debut, self-titled LP came out in 2014 and sounded like the work of a band who’d been carefully perfecting their craft for years and years. The nods to neo-soul, the falsetto vocals, the urban funk – Jungle had hit on a formula and the world agreed that it worked; they were alchemists.

The trouble with artists like this is that sometimes they have nowhere to go from there. If it takes a lifetime to write your first album, you’ve hardly got any time to write the second, and a decent chunk of the time you do have is spent promoting and touring what you’ve already done. There’s a reason “second album syndrome” exists and Jungle exhibit some of the key signifiers. As well as that lightning-in-a-bottle effect of their first album, ‘For Ever’ comes off the back of both relationship break-ups and an aborted recording trip to California. At this point, you can check all those off your “Follow-up album” bingo card.

This is perhaps a touch harsh since Jungle certainly haven’t disappeared up their own hubris with ‘For Ever.’ It’s a very natural follow-up to their eponymous first effort, and there are some noticeable differences. Those aforementioned break-ups have tinged a handful of the tracks with a yearning sadness and give the impression that Jungle want to dance their troubles away. There’s also ‘Cosurmyne,’ a song built around a wandering piano loop and an old vocal sample that has a retro, fuggy feel to it, and it probably the most atypical thing they’ve ever recorded.

However, for the most part, it’s more of what’s been before. That’s not inherently a bad thing (hey, ‘Jungle’ is a great record), but it’s difficult to shake the feeling that you’d like a bit more progression after a gap of more than four years. Album stand-outs ‘Heavy, California’ and ‘Happy Man’ would have slotted into the last LP seamlessly and, considered as a whole, ‘For Ever’ feels like an opportunity missed.

6/10

Words: Joe Rivers

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