Album review: Joe Jackson Band, Volume 4 (2003)


By Steve Newton

When I recall my late-’70s/early-’80s fondness for Brit pop-punk Joe Jackson, I drift back to days spent in a rundown party pad at the foot of a dead-end street in Chilliwack. For some reason, I remember myself one spring afternoon mowing the lawn with one of those manual push mowers while Jackson’s debut Look Sharp! album cranked out of the house through my then-new Pioneer HPM-100 speakers. (“That’s 100 watts a side, kid!”) He had a seriously scrappy band back then, but two albums later, after 1981’s Jumpin’ Jive, the quartet broke up. I had to find a new soundtrack for my grass-cuttin’ exploits.

Since everyone loves a 25-year reunion, Jackson hooked back up with the original lineup—guitarist Gary Sanford, bassist Graham Maby, and drummer Dave Houghton—for the self-produced Volume 4, and the results are mighty impressive. On “Awkward Age”, Houghton’s trash-can drumming and Maby’s ultra-fluid bass lines help form the bounciest old-school pop ditty since Squeeze’s “Another Nail in My Heart”. And Jackson’s patented geek-outsider lyrics are as cutting as ever: “I shoulda known you were only just 15,” he croons on “Awkward Age”. “You had a scowl like a Klingon beauty queen.”

But the CD’s finest moments come via the gorgeous pop ballad “Chrome”, a delicately jangling bit of hook-filled introspection. And as a topper for old fogeys like myself, Volume 4 comes with a six-track bonus disc sporting, among others, live versions of the caustic 1979 hit, “Is She Really Going Out With Him?”, plus the hyper raveups “One More Time” and “I’m the Man”.

Yes, Joe, you certainly are. Again.

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