Joe Jackson Band - Volume 4 (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Joe Jackson Band

Volume 4 (2003)


So I always knew that Joe Jackson existed. I've heard the name dropped many a time when referring to original and spunky singer/songwriters of present day. I even knew of his biggest hit - "Is She Really Going Out With Him" [you know, that song Goldfinger covered]. Most frequently, I heard his name associated with that of one Mr. Elvis Costello, and that's some pretty heady company to be compared to. So when "Volume 4" arrived in my mailbox, I figured that, while the man certainly has some history and credibility behind him, it would probably be another disappointing record from an aging rocker [i.e. Nick Cave's newest album], allowing me to wax nostalgic about the "good old days" [even though I wasn't even alive then], and wishing for a return to greatness for said artist so I could revel in their ability to write good music.

Basically, I figured this would be mediocre at best and I was dead wrong.

Coming 25 years after Jackson's debut, "Look Sharp," the man has reassembled the original band who played on his first three records [Graham Maby, Gary Sanford, and Dave Houghton], and it doesn't sound like they've missed a beat. Right off the bat, the album jumps into the rock foray with "Take It Like A Man," a drum-driven piece with stacatto piano riffs peppered throughout. The song really gets your blood pumping. The next two tracks, "Stay Alive" and the single "Awkward Age" showcase Jackson's uncanny ability to write a damn good pop song. The former will remind you of the Beatles, while the latter will make you think of the aforementioned Mr. Costello.

Joe brings the band down for "Chrome" and "Love At First Light," showcasing the quiet side of his songwriting abilities. Musically, it sounds a bit like a more somber Ben Folds Five.

The album continues to jump back into "rock" mode, though, so don't fret if ballads aren't your thing. "Fairy Dust," with it's wah-wah guitar and 5/4 time signature sounds a bit like modern jazz, but there's too much edge here to dare let you lump it in those quarters. Album closer "Bright Grey" is one of the punkest songs I've heard this year - this new crop of nu-pop-punk bands could take a lesson from this master.

And let's not forget what could be the comedy hit of the year - Jackson's hilarious sendup of hip hop poseurs in the song "Thugz 'R' Us." A wonderfully funny three-and-a-half minute ska tune, the song contains lyrics like "We got beer but we want some crack / we look white but we wanna be black." Joe's telling it like it is, and I for one won't get in his way.

All in all, this is a fantastically solid album, and it will surely please anyone who was ever a fan of his older work from the late 70s/early 80s [before he started doing swing albums and orchestral charts {sounds eeriely similar to Mr. Costello again, doesn't it?}]. There's not one song on here that I really dislike. Sure, they're not all impeccable, but considering if you total up the ages of all the guys in this band it would be over 200, this is pretty impressive stuff. I highly recommend picking this up.

Also, as a sidenote, the first pressing of the album comes with a bonus disc containing 6 Joe Jackson classics being performed live last fall, so if you're really into him you might want to get this ASAP.

Sample tracks from the album here.