We’ve been loving Joker here since the beginning days but nowadays, for me, he’s not quite hitting the same heights of his musical output from back then.
I was really hoping for a return to form with his new album and whilst it’s an interesting album, it falls short of sounding like a brilliant album as it’s pretty sketchy. It just feels like he’s trying too hard at times, especially with the vocal tracks.
It adopts the same cinematic atmospherics of early works but the melodies just don’t hit the same spot like the early stuff and it fills me with no great joy to say that about his work.
It starts off pleasant enough with a subdued and cinematic piano intro.
The second track “Boss Mode” sounds like an updated soundtrack to the famous 70’s UK action cop series “The Sweeney”.
Next comes a vocal track with Zack Abel which sounds pretty mediocre and John Legend-y.
“Midnight” evokes an 80’s American soul vibe complete with 80’s sounding synths and doesn’t really go anywhere.
It then goes a little jazzy in a George Benson kind of way for a short interlude track.
The guitar picks back up on the following track “Lucy” which features Sam Frank and things start to get a bit more interesting until the chorus kicks in a bland kind of way.
Things really start getting on the right track on track 7 “Scene” as Joker travels back in time to the awesome melancholic sound designs of his earlier “Purple Wow” works. This is the Joker we know & love and who excited the hell out of us.
The same mood continues on “Scene 2” and I’m beginning to feel that the glory days are well and truly coming back, this is the stuff that sent us mental!
The same can be said for “Scene 3” as we continue to voyage into dimensions unknown, into hyper-space with nothing but gorgeous & melodic G-Funk synths, this time accompanied by a haunting lead flute and crushing bass sounds turning our minds inside out.
So, thus far the 3 “Scene” tracks are what’s doing it for me and it’s that kind of vibe, atmosphere that I just want the album to continue with.
“Mahogany” comes next and it starts promising enough before turning into a bit of a hit and miss affair. Not sounding quite realized or finalized!
Next comes another vocal track and I’m dreading it already as Joker in instrumental form sounds far more exciting than any of his tracks featuring vocalists. This ones called “Love” featuring Rochelle and it’s not bad but nothing to match any of his remix work of vocal tracks of the past. I can’t help feeling once again that this track would have been better served as an instrumental.
The penultimate track is “Fuzz Bop” and it sounds like an album track. Bit of a filler and not really doing anything exciting or innovative.
The track finishes with “Mixed Emotions” which is a fitting finale to end the album on cause I’m left with mixed emotions about this album and for the future direction for Joker. It’s quite a decent track in parts but never sounds above average.
Overall, the album’s worth buying just for the 3 phenomenal “Scene” tracks and it’s just a shame they were not longer in duration.
I’m not sure what the future holds for joker and this might be his “difficult period” where he doesn’t quite know which direction to head in and is trying to find his way forward after the heady heights of about 5 years ago. I have no doubt that there’s still great, great promise in this producer and I have no doubt that he will find his way forward once again to propel us back to the dizzy heights we all felt in 2008/2009.
I’d love to hear him incorporate some Vocoder into his tracks and go for more of that 80’s sounding Blade Runner space vibe imbued with an updated Purple Wow sound. Maybe he could do that just in time to score the soundtrack to the Blade Runner sequel that is being talked about. An instrumental concept album of Space Age Purple Wow & also experimentations with #Future Tarraxo may just be the ticket and the way forward!
Anyway, disregard all of the above and listen for yourself with an open mind and form your own judgements.