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Joe Jackson

Look Sharp!  Hear it Now

RS: 5of 5 Stars Average User Rating: 5of 5 Stars


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By 1978, the clangor of punk and New Wave had penetrated the boardrooms of America's major labels, each of which wanted an Elvis Costello to call its own. So when American producer David Kershenbaum presented A&M Records with the high-strung, odd-looking, clever Englishman Joe Jackson, label execs could hardly wait to sign him. In the studio, Kershenbaum kept the arrangements unfettered and virtually free of instrumental overdubs, a tactic that emphasized the wound-up riffing of Jackson's three-piece backing band and silhouetted the contours of the his painstakingly crafted pop songs, with their crisp syntax and high-concept refrains.

Look Sharp's "One More Time" and "Sunday Papers" were a welcome merger of edginess and ear candy, which connected immediately with fans who couldn't abide the brutal fun of "God Save the Queen." The album made the Top Twenty, providing A&M bigwigs with a certified punk auteur. Though Jackson would never achieve Costello's cachet, his early work holds up alongside that of his rival.

(RS 940, January 22, 2004)

(Posted: Jan 7, 2004)


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