Jungle are yet another anonymous duo, but the music they makes cultivates little mystery. The pair—currently known only by their first names, Josh and Tom—wield their influences plainly: Parliament’s psychedelic funk, the Beach Boys’ erudite pop songwriting, and a bit of Curtis Mayfield’s sunny soul all surface in the band’s accessible sound. There are few unexpected turns when it comes to the band’s songwriting—if you’ve heard Jungle’s debut EP for XL, Busy Earnin’, you’ll know what’s in store on their debut self-titled LP.
All three tracks from Busy Earnin’—“Busy Earnin’,” “The Heat,” and “Platoon”—reappear on Jungle. They share a few distinguishing qualities, like punchy drums, multi-layered and high-pitched vocals, wah-wah guitar riffs, and simple lyrics. The full length doesn’t offer much more range, just nine more tracks in a similar style—which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as Jungle writes rock-solid pop songs with a danceable foundation. The drawback is that it can feel unadventurous or plain at times, especially when said Josh or Tom rely on lyrical clichés, as is the case on “Lucky I Got What I Want.” While the track sports a few left-field leanings, like a stuttering kick drum and synth pads that waver drunkenly, it’s also equipped with the hackneyed (and somewhat ironic) hook: “Don’t you forget about me.”
That said, there are a few vaguely experimental moments on Jungle; on “Drops,” for example, the singer takes on a James Blake-like croon over a watery, clicking downtempo rhythm. “Smoking Pixels” is easily the weirdest track on an otherwise straightforward and accessible pop-funk album. It’s a two-minute sketch that opens with a repetitive hooting sound and baleful whistling reminiscent of gun dual songs from Spaghetti Western films. Instead of unfurling into an epic acoustic jam, “Smoking Pixels” remains understated and adopts a plodding stomp to support the odd instrumental moans. It hardly seems to go anywhere, but its aimlessness frees the track from traditional song structures and allows for a degree of creative freedom that the band doesn’t approach anywhere else on Jungle. ~