Jack Steadman has shed his Bombay Bicycle Club skin and has been reborn under the pseudonym Mr Jukes. Bombay Bicycle Club announced they would be going on hiatus in January last year, instead choosing to follow solo pursuits with guitarist Ed Nash also making new music as Toothless; somewhat of a shot to the heart to a girl who loved Bombay with all her being.
God First, Mr Jukes’ debut, is the antidote to that shot. The musicians from one of your favourite bands choosing to make other music instead is a blow, but them making music as delectable and captivating as God First is healing.
It’s an album that flits between genres, but so cohesively that it’s positively exciting to see what comes next. This shouldn’t come as a surprise – each of Bombay’s albums have sounded different, from the indie-rock of their debut to the folk-driven Flaws to the influences of electronica in A Different Kind of Fix and So Long, See You Tomorrow. Of course, it’s a little unfair to always compare Steadman’s work in the band and as a solo artist, but the refusal to stick to one sound is evident in both cases.
There’s something for everyone on God First, from the hip-hop tinged ‘Leap of Faith’, to the Motown influences on ‘Grant Green’, to the electronic sounds of ‘Somebody New’ and the jazz of ‘Angels / Your Love’. It’s truly fascinating to listen to; a sonic amalgamation of so many different genres.
Steadman collaborates with a number of artists on God First, enabling him to create so many different types of music in a ten-song record. ‘Leap of Faith’, a personal highlight, is an alliance between Steadman, iconic hip-hop trio De La Soul and reggae artist Horace Andy that just radiates joy and alacrity. ‘From Golden Stars Comes Silver Dew’ features Lalah Hathaway and ‘Somebody New’ has singer Elli Ingram, in both cases creating almost ethereal songs with a nonchalant vibe.
‘Grant Green’, featuring Charles Bradley, is Motown-esque music for people who think they won’t like Motown. ‘Angels/Your Love’ brilliantly stitches two songs together, making an about-turn from a jazzy, saxophone-heavy track to one focused on guest BJ the Chicago Kid’s vocals. Steadman teams up with Lianne La Havas ‘When Your Light Goes Out’ to make a triumphant closing track, starting gently and reaching a crescendo of chorus-chanting and a beautiful mess of instruments and sounds.
God First is a superb debut for Mr Jukes. If Bombay Bicycle Club choose to make their hiatus permanent, then Mr Jukes doesn’t feel like a consolation prize; it feels like a fair exchange of one artist’s stunning music for something equally as wonderful.By Lucy McLaughlin