Jack Steadman, Bombay Bicycle Club’s front man has taken flight under the name Mr Jukes, releasing his debut album ‘God First’ under the label Island Records. Inspired for his love of jazz, funk and soul, he took on the role of composing, producing as well as playing on this album, including a lot of sampling records from all backgrounds. His discovery for musical tastes go from Japan to North London, never stopping short of surprising listeners with what he can do in one track.
The first thing to mention regarding this record is that Mr Jukes has nothing to do with what was before in terms of BBC, his style, musical approach and endeavours are unrecognisable. Being aware of his past, he took on the name Mr Jukes since: “I don’t think the moniker ‘Jack Steadman’ works. If I make a folk record then maybe I’ll keep the name. I wanted to separate it as much as I could from the band.” Moving away from the indie-pop genre, shortly after his band took a break, Steadman took a trip from Shanghai to Canada by cargo ship and turned out to be the only passenger amongst a team of Polish, German as well as Philippines workers. From there, he literally taped up his own studio, making sure that his laptop and other equipment wouldn’t fall through the boats’ rocking motion, embarking on a productive and enlightening journey: “You know you’re always moving forwards – you’re travelling. That’s my favourite state to be in. And that’s where Mr Jukes comes from.”
Starting with “Typhoon” takes us through obscure/ambient synths and string instruments with vocals that sounds like a sailor’s chant, written during his time on the cargo ship whilst reading a James Conrad novel called Typhoon, a classic sea yarn which includes a character called Jukes. “Angels/Your Love” is a brilliant track, saxophones and a choir taking charge in an R&B power ballad before halfway through, everything is smoothed out for BJ The Chicago Kid’s soulful vocals. Founded on a sample from Argentinian Jazz composer Jorge Lopez Ruiz, following difficulty to acquire the rights to use it, this looped brass-heavy track eventually came to life and sets the tone for the album:
There are tracks that remind you of BBC due to obviously Steadman taking charge of the vocals, the song “Ruby” has some beautiful chords on the piano at the beginning before transitioning into an electronic-synth medley. “Magic” has fantastic electronic compositions, synths and the beat dancing around the melody, with vulnerable vocals reminiscent of the XX making it a very compact track which reaches different dynamics all throughout. Funky, groovy and with great R&B vocals from Ellie Ingram, “Somebody New” is filled with textures from all corners, making this a fresh as well as smooth track:
Originally inspired from guitarist Grant Green, joined with the fantastic soul-man Charles Bradley, this track is explosive, colourful and full of life from start to finish. The melody, rhythmic section, brass and electronics coming together with experienced vocals makes this one of the tracks of the year.
Steadman explains that the title of the album, God First, comes from the idea that through making music/collaborating with someone, there is something spiritual happening: “I’ve had this argument my whole life about whether improvisation is based on memory or maths, or whether there’s something else going on.” From Lianne La Havas on the melodic “When Your Lights Goes Out” to Alexandria on “Tears”, every artist was picked on how they’d fit to the tune and atmospheric feel of the songs, all contributions proving to be an absolute success, only solidifying Steadman’s vision as a composer.
Driven with thumping synths, pounding drums and crashing cymbals, De La Soul’ rapping with Horace Andy’s vocals gives a modern twist to funk as well as soul vibes. Love the feel of the track, its uplifting face and upbeat rhythm all mixed with hip-hop is fantastically refreshing.
Mr Jukes is a character I’m excited to discover more off, the bald head, small specs with record in hand has left me wondering what else can be produced from his collection of ideas and vinyls. Dipping his toes into new genres, collaborating with talented musicians and taking charge of his own sound shows a new face to Steadman who now doesn’t have to focus on adapting his ideas to a four-piece guitar group, saying that when with his old band: “But I would always think, ‘What would it sound like if I didn’t have to do that?’ That’s the point. The whole album was me wanting to get my imagination on record.”