JOE JACKSON probably won’t thank me for reminding the world of his biggest hit Is She Really Going Out With Him? Trust me, I’d rather not, but it was so good it reached No.3 in the UK charts in 1979, in an era when Cliff Richard was at the peak of his powers, and Boney M were the housewives’s favourites.
Fast Forward (earMUSIC) is Jackson’s first collection of largely original songs in seven years and has four settings: the cities where they were recorded, New York, Amsterdam, Berlin and New Orleans. Why he never went to Wagga Wagga remains a mystery. In each city Jackson’s recording with different musicians; in New York the legendary Bill Frisell; in Holland he’s joined by two members of Zuco 103; in Germany two expat Americans, Greg Cohen and Earl Harvin, and in New Orleans he’s teamed up with members of a local funk band.
In the NY sequence, Jackson does a commendable version of Television’s ever-wonderful See No Evil. I would never have envisaged Jackson attempting such a feat, but when you hear the first few bars it’s clear this is a song that sounds right for the artist. Jackson retains the original’s seedy side, and makes it sound like fun. There was a lot of guitar focus on the original and, thankfully, Frisell’s strumming keeps this fine tradition alive.
This section contains the title track which muses about generation gaps and modern life, and how “Everyone is a genius, but no one has any friends,”.
Jackson has always sounded best when he just lets go, and that’s what he does on A Little Smile whose general jollity is interspersed with a surprising, biting verse that on the surface seems out of place, but in fact is the perfect progression for the track.
If I Could See Your Face, with its snake-charmer introduction, meanwhile, is a dark journey into the worst of the human condition, “How you could kill your own sister, you evil fuck,” seems uncharacteristic of the English songwriter.
The other cover is a little more unconventional, the 1930s German ‘Kabarett’ song Good Bye Jonny which is exactly how I expected a cabaret song to be, but that doesn’t suggest it necessarily fits in with what is obstensibly a pop album.
The final track, Ode To Joy, is Jackson very much on form, a lot of glorious 80s-esque horn playing, JJ’s astute voice, to create a fantastic pop song that would fit on any album out this year.
One of those albums you are surprised to say you would recommend to your mum.