Jungle’s eponymous album sent them stratospheric. It allowed them to play around the world, headlining such legendary venues as Brixton Academy, receive praise from Noel Gallagher (no easy feat), and arguably kickstart London’s new obsession with funk, soul and jazz. Then they disappeared. Relocating to Los Angeles, they went to “find themselves” and came out with their sophomore record, For Ever. A fusion of trip-hop, neo-soul, and plastic soul, with all the ingredients that made their debut great, For Ever is an instant classic.
The L.A. connection here is crucial, too, because it’s one of the fewer notable changes to the record from their debut. Like California, For Ever is a breezy, laidback occasion at times with enough party and exuberance to give a Hollywood party a run for its money. However, apart from that, there’s little different from Jungle – but that’s no bad thing. After all, it was one of the finest records of the last few years and if you’re onto a winning formula, why change it?
As such, For Ever is always one of two things: a high tempo funk banger or a low-key soul groover – with both being particularly excellent. Take ‘Cherry’, for example, with its corrugated groove and honey sweet vocals, it is a soothing, whimsical, and swirling number that churns and whirls around your subconscious, subsequently evoking Massive Attack at their most laid back. Whereas ‘Home’ is almost a straight-up gospel number with its euphoric melody, ‘Mama Oh No’ fleshes out their distinct sound with beautiful backing vocals. It’s clear that Jungle have grown in confidence to not only attempt some of the genres and sounds they’ve tried here, but to pull them off in some style too.
It’s with the singles where For Ever turns on the style. It sounds funny saying this about a band only on their second record, but the likes of ‘Happy Man’ and ‘Heavy, California’ are already starting to sound like classic Jungle. The former is a dynamic number with the old adage of ‘money can’t buy happiness’, while the latter, arguably the biggest earworm on the record, will stay with you long after the record has stopped spinning. Elsewhere, latest single ‘Beat 54 (All Good Now)’ sounds like a mixture of Gorillaz’s trip-hop variations and Glass Animals’ bedroom bops. The Gorillaz connection doesn’t end there, either, with ‘Casio’ arousing Damon Albarn’s use of the Sennheiser microphone.
Time has been good to Jungle here, as For Ever feels far more complete than Jungle. There’s a balance to the album, which not only makes its flow exceptional, but it also continues the groove, soul and funk set by their live shows, which is arguably where they made their name. While many bands try to over convolute and over complicate their second record, Jungle have stuck to a tried and tested formula with just enough of an update to make it successful. Crucially, though, it works because Jungle’s sound is incredibly unique, and it’s oh so good to have them back in our lives.