Jungle’s self-titled debut LP on XL is a puzzle of contradictions as a full body of work. It’s equally as innovative as it is mundane, equally as ambitious as it is safe, and equally as fun as it is tedious. Well, the last one isn’t quite true, this album is a ton of fun. But its hyper-consistency leads to the last two-thirds of the album feeling pretty redundant. It seems as though Jungle effortlessly found their sound—a funkier, more R&B-heavy take on Disclosure’s throwback electronic, topped off with a high falsetto—but have struggled to find a way to build on that sound since last October’s The Heat EP. It is undeniable though that Jungle is doing something different and unique. If any one of these tracks were on the radio they would be pretty instantly recognizable as a Jungle song, which is quite an accomplishment in an era dominated by cookie-cutter electronic. But that doesn’t change the fact that after multiple listens, Jungle’s own songs remain indistinguishable from one another. By the end of The Heat, the album’s opener, Jungle has put all their cards out on the table, and then, for the following 35 minutes, they put all those same cards back out on the table 11 more times. After the album’s sixth track, even the most casual listener gets the point.
Nevertheless, what Jungle does on this release is both admirable, a funk revival set in 2050, coupled with a brilliantly curated selection of the best moves of recent British electronic music, meticulously designed to a perfect balance of palatable and trend-setting and hand delivered to the masses. Crazily enough, they really do pull it off. It’s impressive enough for an artist to push their genre, especially if that genre is the oft-faceless pop-electronic, one step further. However that is the limit of this album’s success, pushing its surroundings one step further. What is most disappointing about this album is Jungle’s unchanneled potential to do so much more with it, seemingly wasting their position as one of the only groups in the world capable of releasing this summer’s answer to Disclosure’s Settle. They came close, but at the end of the day, this album is a one trick pony, even if that trick is a pretty freakin’ cool one.
Perhaps this album was a little rushed out, with only nine months between the release of the group’s first ever 7-inch and their debut full-length on indie heavyweight XL Recordings. The hook of the lead single, Busy Earnin’, would seem a reflection on that decision to rush this out and capitalize on their own hype: “Too busy earnin’/You can’t get enough/just by earnin’.” Earnin’ is certainly something that Jungle will do for a long time as a result of this album, and that starts this summer by appearing at what seems to be every festival in the free world. Busy Earnin’ is certainly a hit, along with the uber-dancy Time, the effortlessly cool Platoon and the uber-dancy, effortlessly cool Son Of A Gun. The entire LP warrants the use of the same four or five adjectives, and adding in any more would do no justice in establishing how over-played it is by its close. Despite that, there is certainly something big going on here, hopefully something that Jungle can continue to mine for more depth on future, more carefully thought out releases. For now, one thing is for certain—this album lifts Jungle towards the upper echelon of electronic music, a place they’ll likely have the comfort of staying for a long, long time.