After working on Public Image Limited’s first two albums (1978’s First Issue and 1979’s Metal Box), Jah Wobble left the band and never really stopped. He formed the short-lived Human Condition and collaborated on a variety of projects before putting together the first version of his Invaders of the Heart. With the exception of a brief down period, Wobble has kept the band going while collaborating with a variety of artists. What seems to keep Wobble evergreen is the fact that he hasn’t been relegated to one role or style. The six-disc retrospective ReDux, which covered his career from PiL to 2015, is a testimony to that fact, ranging from post-punk to jazz to electronic to pop and nearly everything in-between. As such, you’re never quite sure which Wobble is going to show up.
For the Invaders of the Heart first album since 2013, Wobble reassembled his longtime band: drummer Marc Layton-Bennett, acoustic pianist George King, guitarist Martin Chung, keyboardist Michael Rendall, trumpeter Sean Corby, and sax players Chet Doxus, Alex Ward, and Hawkwind’s Nik Turner. And legendary Afrobeat drummer Tony Allen also lends a hand. The self-released Everything Is No Thing plays things relatively straight as a jazz record, though to be fair, that’s a pretty broad classification. There are bits of Afrobeat, funk, Afro-Cuban percussion, soul, bop, dub, and little allusions to various jazz styles sprinkled in. It’s also entirely instrumental, with the exception of Aurora Dawn’s vocals on “Cosmic Dawn.”
What’s interesting about Everything Is No Thing is that if you listen to it as a straight jazz record, there’s something about it that doesn’t sit quite right. It’s too light and clean. But once you dig into it, all the idiosyncratic touches reveal themselves. Such subterfuge can be partially attributed to the production hand of Youth, who’s not very flashy when it comes to his contributions. Also, some elements are pushed high in the mix while others lay in the cut, so while you’re focusing on Wobble’s basslines, you may miss that Layton-Bennett is doing some insanely tricky work just off to the side. It’s to the credit of Wobble and the Invaders that they seem very comfortable with throwing the leads around. Wobble would be fully within his right as the bandleader to position himself front and center, yet on cuts like “Freedom Principle,” his bass parts seem to be almost a non-happening.
In many ways, there are two simultaneous levels to the record. A listener can skim the surface and get one experience or dig a little deeper and get another. If the album were a bit mellower, then it would easily be slotted as a headphone record. However, it demands to be turned up, loudly proving to be another solid entry on Wobble’s CV.