It's been five years since the Brixton-based duo released their last albums, but it's not as if the boys have been taking it easy. While 2009's Scars was heavy on guests (Santigold, Kelis, Sam Sparro, Paloma Faith, Yoko Ono and more) and Zephyr found them in a far more ambient mood, neither really set the dancefloor alight like you'd expect from the guys behind "Where's Your Head At?", "Red Alert" and "Romeo". Since then they've provided the soundtrack to sci-fi horror comedy Attack The Block, created orchestral jazz fusion with their duet album Basement Jaxx VS Metropole Orkest, and now they're back to reclaim their throne from the likes of Disclosure and Rudimental… or so they would hope.
Early buzz singles "Back 2 The Wild" and "What A Difference Your Love Makes" are nowhere to be seen, and neither is most recent single "Galactical" unless you fork out for the Deluxe Edition of the album. What we do get, singles-wise, is the SBTRKT-y "Never Say Never", which comes complete with clapping drum and 90s house piano, but is more suited to the 4am walk home alone than the 2am nightclub euphoria. "Unicorn" also borrows a 90s instrument - that slinky synth that the entire song is built around - but is far closer to the Jaxx we know and love; flirty and fun and easy to boogie down to.
The rest of Junto - Spanish for "together" - suffers from this same dichotomy, as if BJ are trying to simultaneously look back at what they do best, while looking forward for innovation, and never quite achieving either. This is most evident during the second half of the album when the lads try their hand at manic jungle rave "Buffalo", metal drum reggae "Rock This Road", industrial EDM-lite "Sneakin' Toronto" and hipster r'n'b "Love Is At Your Side"; none fail outright, but you can barely hear one catchy hook amongst them over the self-congratulatory round of applause for trying new things.
Elsewhere though, there is still evidence of the talent that blew us all away when they first arrived on the scene in 1999. Both "Power To The People" and "Mermaid Of Salinas" are joyous latin-based anthems that Brazil '14 would have killed for, "What's The News" evokes the playful bass-speaker shaking likes of "Good Luck" and "Oh My Gosh" from back in the day, while "Summer Dem" could have easily been their lead single from one of their early 00's albums… and we mean that in a good way.
What Junto is missing is knock-us-off-our-feet single, instead it comes across as a filler album while Basement Jaxx are re-finding their feet. By no means a bad album and it's very easy to have on as background music while prepping for a night out… but Basement Jaxx was never supposed to be background music. We look forward to when they finally take us back to the dancefloor.
Review by Rory Cashin | THREE STARS