Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Joe Jackson - Look Sharp!

Earlier this month (January 5th) marked the thirty-fifth anniversary of Look Sharp!, the debut album from Joe Jackson. Joining him on the 1979 release were Gary Sanford (guitar), Graham Maby (bass) and David Houghton (drums). The record went to number 40 in the UK and number 20 on the US Billboard Album chart. It was also very popular on US college radio station with a number of songs hitting the top twenty of the CMJ College Radio Tracks chart.

Side one opens with the raging guitar of "One More Time". It captures that exact moment when a woman breaks this man's heart.

"Sunday Papers", with its erratic rhythm, talks about what a shut-in woman can glean from a weekly newspaper.

"Is She Really Going Out With Him?" was issued as a single in September of 1978 but had little traction. Upon re-release in 1979, it went to number 46 in the Netherlands, number 21 on the US Billboard Hot 100, number 18 in New Zealand, number 15 in Australia, number 13 in the UK, and number 9 in Canada. I like the bounce of the beat on this one, and I remember it burning up the charts during the spring and summer of 1979. As someone who at that time was often very infatuated with girls who were already dating someone else, this song constantly played in my head while in school.

"Happy Loving Couples" really points out the divide between friends who are in relationships and those that are not. It does paint the single guy as a bit bitter though (and slightly jealous).

The rollicking rhythms of "Throw It Away" round out the first half. It has a bit of a punk attitude to it too, which is a nice change-up at this point on the record.

Side two begins with "Baby Stick Around", a bouncy beat that, to me, seems influenced a bit by Elvis Costello who in turn was influenced by classic early rock and roll.

"Look Sharp!" is full of flash and image and attitude. This one was also a favorite of mine from the album back in the day. I like the piano foundation that makes up the instrumental bridge.

For "Fools in Love", Jackson brings in some reggae influences as he mocks guys who are so in love that they've become neutered.

"(Do the) Instant Mash" features a down and dirty groove to it, punctuated by its guitar grind.

"Pretty Girls" is up next. It instantly reminds me of a song by Manfred Mann, thanks to that whole "...she walking down the street...".

The album closes with the rapid-fire urgency of "Got the Time".

My early exposure to most of Look Sharp! first came from my older brother and then from listening to the local college radio station while I was still in high school. I like these songs, even if at times Jackson comes across as angry. But, I consider that a reflection of his youth and growing up in a working class English family. I have some of these tracks thanks to a greatest hits compilation, but I can easily see the rest finding a home in my music library as well.

For 1982's Night and Day, click here.

For 1983's soundtrack to Mike's Murder, click here.

1 comment:

Mark said...

And don't forget the awesome album cover art - - one of my all-time favorites. In 1991, Rolling Stone magazine ranked it #22 on its list of 100 Greatest Album Covers.