Review: Joe Jackson - Volume 4
Released: March 11, 2003
Joe Jackson is a recent discovery for me. It's not that I've just heard his music for the first time, just that I've only recently spent the time to get to know it and really appreciate it. In the midst of my Joe Jackson discovery, I came across 2003's Volume 4 which finds Jackson reunited with the band that gave us Look Sharp, I'm the Man and Beat Crazy, arguably his three best albums. Like Jackson himself, these guys haven't lost much over the years. They have that rare quality of being top-notch technicians that never lost the ability to play from the heart. They're downright inspiring.
Volume 4 goes back to Jackson's punk roots (don't call it new wave, because that's just too watered down for what Jackson does). "Little Bit Stupid" has all the angular bite of 1977, but still shows that Jackson can pretty much write circles around his peers, past and present. "Love at First Sight" hints at Billy Joel much in the way that earlier hits "Is She Really Going Out with Him" and "Steppin' Out" hint at Rick Springfield and Christopher Cross respectively. While Joel is certainly not so bad as the others, the amazing thing about Joe Jackson is that he gets within a stones throw of artists who've done some pretty egregious work, yet his songs ring with an honesty and edge that keep him solidly on the good (actually outstanding) side of the line. The funky "Fairy Dust" stretches out and gets down. Even a lighter song like "Chrome" has a biting intensity beneath its smooth surfaces.
Is Volume 4 every bit as good as the first three albums recorded by this group of musicians? Not quite. You'd be hard pressed to find a moment of weakness on the first three volumes and there are a few here. However, it does live up to the legacy, because Joe Jackson and company never sound like a bunch of old guys rehashing their past. If all reunions were like this, I certainly wouldn't take such issue with them.
The album comes with a bonus EP of the band performing some of their older favorites live. It might not be Live 1980/86, but it rocks with the same spirit if not the incredible ambition.
For another opinion on this album, check out Chuck's review at Pratt Songs.
If you're curious about my rating categories, read the description.