Thursday, June 01, 2006
farkleberries Music Briefs: New Editors, Joan Jett 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
UPDATE: The New York Times on Joan's new album, "Embracing a Proud Past, Joan Jett Keeps It Simple" by Sia Michel:
"...At times it sounded as if Ms. Jett had been kidnapped by a bland Midwestern bar band. But as she and her all-male backup obliged the crowd with nearly all of her hits (including her excellent "Crimson and Clover" cover), it didn't really matter. Even her voice is remarkably young, untainted by bitterness or ennui.

Ms. Jett ended the show with Sly and the Family Stone's "Everyday People," thrusting her pelvis against her low-slung guitar. There is nothing everyday about her: she is the hard-rock Dorian Gray."
The multiplexes may still be oozing out mediocre summer flicks, but I'm happy to say I've recently discovered some music worth getting excited about. This past weekend, while testing out a used 60-watt Denon A/V surround-sound receiver I picked up at the Brown Elephant (for a paltry $6 - no, I didn't forget a zero) I tuned in a song on WXRT that grabbed my attention and made me run, not walk, to the computer so I could Google the lyrics and find out what I was listening to - Editors' "Munich." [Watch the video on C-the-Music] Filled with swaths of icy guitar, booming drums and Tom Smith's barely-controlled baritone croon, Editors are a shiny extension of the New Wave scene's darker side (a la Joy Division, for example, or even Arias & Symphonies era Spoons) into the New Millennium. "People are fragile things/you should know by now/be careful what you put them through/...you'll speak when you're spoken to..." or "Blood"'s "...blood runs through our veins/that's where our similarity ends..." The Back Room is the recombinant-DNA progeny of dozens of outstanding bands - even if not entirely "original," it's still a fresh, memorable take on a rock genre that's clearly not dead yet.

Joan Jett and the Blackhearts' first new US album release in over a decade, Sinner, hits the stores June 6th (06-06-06, get it? Ha, ha.). With a few alterations and the omission of some tracks, the album is almost identical to the 2004 import-only CD Naked that received critical praise for Joan's expansion of her musical ambit - and fan complaints, for its high import-only ($30+) retail price. The change of name was probably a good move. The Talking Heads released a none-too-stellar late career album in 1988 also called Naked, that featured a painting of a chimpanzee in a similar cover pose as Joan's on her album called Naked. Not that people would generally confuse Joan with a chimpanzee, but "Joan Jett - Sinner!" is a better culture war ralling cry than "Joan Jett - Naked!" No? Well, at least I thought so.

Sinner is less about adolescent bird-flipping The Man than a thoughtful, centered effort by a artist who has grown from rebellious teen into a solid legend who needs no excuses; by contrast, in the 1982 Bad Reputation video, Joan getting collar-tossed from a bar by a burly bearded bouncer (followed by a silent-film slide that reads, "We don't want your kind in here!") comes across today as something like playing the victim. The early 80's Teenaged Joan the Misfit Rebel and 90's Liza-Minnelli-as-Glam-Biker Joan have given way to a Joan comfortable in her own skin as androgynously sexy maiden-mother-crone, simultaneously young and old, with all its implications of masculine/feminine energy intertwined. Sinner's lyrics are a sea change, a glasnost of sorts addressing politics and vulnerability in a way Jett's earlier music only hinted at. In that sense, Sinner is nothing if not refreshingly humanist.

Tracks to focus on are the the openly political "Riddles," a raunchy cruncher (which appeared on an earlier eponymous limited-edition EP) called "Fetish," "Five," a confessional indie-raga rocker, and the unexpectedly lush ballad "Watersign" - but the breakout single is Joan's playfully lecherous take on The Sweet's "AC-DC," that's generating a crackling internet buzz about her video starring Carmen Electra, that - how shall I put this - "kicks open the closet door" for Joan. Maybe she is playing with us after all, but teasing the fans by getting down with the former Baywatch Babe is cleanly calculated to make this one Big in Japan...and maybe elsewhere. Tongues will wag. Stay tuned. :) [PureVolume music page with streaming audio here]

(P.S.) Is it just me, or is Shane McCutcheon doing Joan's hair these days?