From the Y Crate: Unklejam

From the Y Crate,unklejam cd #13:
“Unklejam” by UNKLEJAM (Virgin)

Here’s another made-up music genre for you: ‘Electrosoul’. Take equal parts James Brown, Cameo, Prince and Imagination, throw in a handful of 80s synth-pop, give it a good shake and name the concoction after a George Clinton record. Et voila – Unklejam!

In a previous life, Bobby Joel Stearns had been a member of the ironically named Christian band thebandwithnoname. Towards the tail end of 2006, word started to spread that he’d linked up with two other singers – Adonistar and Tyson – to form Unklejam. “Love Ya”, Unklejam’s debut single, was released early in 2007.

Critics could argue that “Love Ya” was just an over-the-top swagger, and they’d be right. But it was a brilliant over-the-top swagger! There was no way you could ignore it; bold, loud and with all the subtlety of a JCB, never has a band announced its entry into the music scene with more cockiness. That year, the guys worked their butts off, supporting Nelly Furtado, John Legend and Justin Timberlake on their UK tours. In between those gigs, they released two more singles: “What am I Fighting For?” and “Stereo”.

So what went wrong?

Frankly, I haven’t a clue. I knew something was amiss when the album’s release date kept changing. As far as I know, it never did get a proper UK release; the lucky few who did manage to get their hands on copies are asking for silly money for them on Amazon (fortunately, I didn’t have to shell out too much for the one I bought).

The more I listen to the album, the more baffled I am as to why Virgin chose to sit on it. The three singles are there in their glory, along with another could-have-been hit,“Go”. For those who may have found the band’s brashness a bit much, they showed us their mellow, sensitive side on “Don’t Pass Me By”, “Cry” and “Daddy’s Genes”.

Unklejam may have disappeared, but their presence can still be felt here and there. A certain McDonald’s I used to frequent always seemed to have “Love Ya” on its PA system whenever I was in it. And the other day, I heard it in the background on one of those “young man who’s hopeless around women tries desperately hard to get a girlfriend” comedies on Channel 4. The videos for the three singles can easily be found on Youtube, along with a few of them performing the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” live (one of the best covers of that song that I’ve heard – and I’ve heard a few). Here’s hoping they don’t stay hidden too long.


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