Jethro Tull has thankfully held the one piece of their band that made their progressive rock a stunning experience. The Navigators does little with it, but at least it is there. To think how bad it could have been without it. Chilling. Do not bother pursuing that long and winding procession of RökFlöte without the Flöte. Just under a year on from The Zealot Gene and it seems what remains of Jethro Tull is itching to get back and record, create in those twilight years and draw on the mystical imagery and embarrassing insignias adopted by those that think Thor tattoos and a fascination with Norse mythology is an interest that can be presented, in earnest, to the real world.
Doubling down on instrumentals that sound as though they were ripped straight from Castle Crashers, the lengths Jethro Tull goes to in attempting to revive their original style is irritating. Honest waves and savage thunders, The Navigators is nothing more than a particularly dire weather forecast. Their flute-based rock is unconventional and has potential as ever but the seriousness of their music and the lack of fun the group have with it is telling and obvious. Jethro Tull still appears to believe the imagery they conjure is filled with awe and wonder, rather than an image grandparents use as examples of the good old days of music, back when tickets were a tuppence and there were about four bands in the top forty. Jethro Tull has failed to step with the times, and that is their greatest weakness here because their image is so dependent on outmoded style.
Even as a nostalgia trip, this does not work. The Navigators is not a horrendous track by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a particularly drab occasion of white noise music. Minor malfunctions that see Ginnungagap maintain itself as the strongest and equally as forgettable single for Jethro Tull so far, this flute-going occasion marks little quality. Reassuring it may be that Ian Anderson is still on top form in both vocals and instrumentals, they all amount to nothing. Talent and consistent massaging of the vocal cords are all good and well, but it is better still when there is intention, when there is meaning behind the vocals that amount to more than steady and repetitive worship of Nordic legend. Jethro Tull is the weird kid in the corner, jabbering on about Thor over and over as people stare deep into their pint, waiting for them to come to a close.
For the one or two that still dare make eye contact with Jethro Tull, particularly the wide-eyed fans who can appreciate what the band has done over the course of just a few years eclipses their productive stretches, The Navigators will work just fine. A literal title, a literal presence, and not a shred of a message beyond that of appreciation for sea-faring and navigation tactics, the latest Jethro Tull track is a dud game of empty instrumentals and a continuation of such a dull and outdated image to fixate on. It is the equivalent of attempting to revive Guns ‘n’ Roses’ use of skulls and crosses. It is not happening; it should not happen. Jethro Tull may hit back at the presumption that they cannot play and sing, but they struggle to mount the crucial final hurdle, lyrics.