Saturday, June 6, 2009
J - Joe Jackson - "Look Sharp!"
Joe Jackson is that jazzy bald guy that sings “Steppin’ Out”. On his debut album, he has hair and one stylin’ pair of shoes.
MTV played “Steppin’ Out” and “Breaking Us in Two” a lot, I think mostly because they didn’t have very many videos to start with, and Joe made mini movies instead of lip-synching. These videos helped make his “Night and Day” album very successful. However, they presented a few warning signs for Joe’s continued success in this new medium:
· His music – more melody based than most of the generic new wave nonsense MTV played, it had little in common with the rest of Billboard Top 40,
· His appearance – make no mistake about it, Joe was a very homely lad, and
· His attitude – he’s always been pretty condescending towards pop music, even though that’s how he made his money.
Sure enough, his next album bombed and he focused more on his muse than the charts, which was fine – the charts weren’t interested.
But on “Look Sharp”, he’s the newest attendee at the “Angry Young Men – UK division” club. Arriving too late to be a punk, he settles comfortably in the new wave: mid to uptempo numbers, some reggae riddims trown in, and snide lyrics putting down…well, everything. Joe’s got his schooling at Elvis C Academy, and done his homework well – Costello could sue for royalties on some of these (“Fools in Love”, fer instance). Joe doesn’t seem enamored of very much, but he’s not angry as much as he is pissy. He smartly (or at least he thinks he smartly) puts down fashion, the media, nightlife, women, and men. But more than anything, he doesn’t like relationships. Or maybe he feels above them, like some diminutive balding Zeus sneering at the silliness of humans for falling for this “love” crap. Gee, sorry you’re so disgusted with everything, Joe. Your attitude sucks. And your music isn’t good enough to make up for it.
What’s more, I absolutely HATE his bass player, who, according to the album, is Graham Maby. Joe has a 4 piece band of guitar, bass, piano, & drums, but the production is such that the bass is highlighted front and center. Was it because Graham was the best musician? Maby, but he insists on filling every empty space in the music with bass notes, which really shows that he’s a frustrated guitar player who, despite being stuck with a traditional rhythm instrument, HAS to prove that he can play. It’s showboating, and it’s annoying. Graham, you’re a bass player – get back by the amplifiers and play what you NEED to play, not what you CAN play. Bozo.
There are a few good tunes on here, which mostly happen early on. The mid-tempo songs fare better than the fast ones (although “Got the Time”, which is the only punk sounding song on the record, is pretty good). I like “One More Time”, & “Sunday Papers”, despite the latter’s lazy target (what, Joe? The media focuses more on flash & glitz than actual news? The stereotypical suburbanites are mindless? What a newsflash – I’ll alert the medi….uh…no) is catchy enough. The clear standout is the big hit “Is She Really Going Out With Him?”, which is an out and out classic, and one that points in the direction Joe would head in the future. Great melody, sarcastic lyrics that aren’t too snide (I like his lyrical shout out to the Stranglers, of all people), and the one song where Graham focuses more on the tune than on his surrogate Johnson.
Verdict: based on this record, if he hadn’t hit big with “Is She Really….”, I doubt that A&M would’ve given him another chance to WHAM make it big.