“Buy yourself a dream. How’s it looking? Buy yourself a dream. It won’t mean nothing.” With the sinister secrets hidden inside Hollywood being revealed more and more in recent years kick-started by the Weinsten fiasco, Los Angeles could metaphorically symbolize a desirable place that’s advertised as an endless dream-accomplishing machine but once one enters into its lair, the promises aren’t fulfilled and disillusionment ensues.
This is how Josh Lloyd-Watson, one half of the original co-founders of London modern soul collective Jungle felt when living LA after falling head over heels for a girl there. When the transatlantic couple broke up and Watson returned to London to find childhood friend Tom McFarland also experiencing the same romantic woe, it fuelled Jungle’s emotionally-charged second album For Ever, named after the commitment problems within both relationships. For a project that was initially enigmatic and anonymous four years ago, the follow-up to Jungle’s self titled debut is surprisingly more autobiographical. Its aim is to emotionally connect with audience’s hearts while still persuading their legs to embrace Jungle’s rhythmic groove.
Jungle’s first record as an eight-piece has been described by the band as a “post-apocalyptic radio station of break-up songs”. The radio station element of that concept is felt on self-invented portmanteau ‘Cosurmyne’ which uses a fuzzy mono vocal sample behind lyrics of loneliness and wading self-motivation but this radio technique is also used to far greater effect on the catchy and upbeat ‘Heavy, California’ which begins with a radio station style jingle that cuts through the artifice of the protagonist’s ambitions. “One day she’ll take the world from you…“. The no-nonsense slogan is a sucker punch wake-up call for the romantically-fervent Josh Lloyd-Watson who naively compares California to Heaven as he anticipates his visit there after showing extreme infatuation over a Californian girl on opener ‘Smile’.
In contrast the retro 70’s soul ‘Casio’, the cinematic ‘Beat 54’ (one of many dreamy tracks on For Ever) and the mournful ballad ‘House In L.A’ smash the starry-eyed Watson’s L.A misconceptions with a jackhammer. Powerful lyrics include “I cannot be your whole world and sit on a fake grass“, “Breaking it apart so you can let it go. Wait another year that’s not original or cynical“, and “Truly if you care if I’m getting on that plane. So ask me to stay. Oh God, in the hope that you can heal my pain.”
‘Happy Man‘- which is the track most like Jungle’s previous record for its sleek mid-tempo trademark sound – directly confronts the false promises theme of the record with lyrics that start off by showing eager optimism to “try to do something new” as a solution for happiness but conclude with the disappointing result of reality; “buy yourself a dream and it won’t mean nothing“. It’s most compelling and relevant because it sounds like a younger generation speaking sarcastically to the older generation’s advice.
‘Mama Oh No‘. ‘Pray’, ‘Home’ and ‘More and More (It Ain’t Easy)’ show the depths of melancholy that Jungle reach on the record. They turn to their mothers and religion for answers, wisdom and strength of the former two. While on the nocturnal soul-searching wanderlust ‘Home’ and the drum-machine More and More, Josh Lloyd-Watson and Tom McFarland’s falsettos become introverted to a point where the lyrics are mumbled inaudibly and they sound like Jonathan Higgins of Everything Everything or James Blake drowning themselves in a bottle of whisky at a bar. The protagonist has reached their lowest point of hope.
For Ever might be occupied with the idea of false promises being broken but the meaningful lyrics and the always-fascinating blend of new and old soul, funk, electronic lounge, mean that Jungle themselves still live up to their hype, even if California doesn’t in their eyes.