1. “Big Black Cloud”
2. “Fabulously Absolute”
4. “Strange Land”
5. “Friend Better”
7. “32 Kisses”
Reviewed by Brett Ritchie
Four years since his last album “Fast Forward” and 40 years since he recorded his debut album “Look Sharp”, Joe Jackson has released his latest eight-track LP titled Fool. Jackson is quoted as saying that the theme for the album was comedy and tragedy and the way they are intertwined in all our lives. The songs are about fear, alienation, anger, loss, friendship, laughter, music and art.
The album’s 8 songs represent all those things in a wonderful array of lyrics and music. From the simple piano on 32 Kisses to the almost punk sounds on Fabulously Absolute and the title song Fool, the album wanders through an array of emotions and genres as he takes the listener on a journey as only Joe Jackson can.
The title song Fool is a fast-edgy number that contains a couple of explicit words but nothing to get too upset about. A solid drum beat punctuates throughout the song as Jackson sings of rebellion. The first line, Tougher than Superman, smarter than Batman starts the comparisons during the song and with the words “rain rain every day, rain rain go away” interposed throughout the song, reminded me at times of a sailor’s ditty.
Alchemy starts off with almost a Burt Bacharach sound to it and you can imagine yourself sitting in a red velvet covered booth with friends, drinking in a smoky club with Jackson dressed in a lounge suit, perched on a stool on the small stage, drink in hand, singing with his small backing band playing with their relaxed style. At nearly 7 minutes long and the longest track on the album, it draws you in as you listen to Jackson sing of red velvet curtains, mysterious figures, silhouettes, and a savage beast.
32 kisses starts off with some single piano and guitar and you almost think he is about to play “is she really going out with him” but then it launches into a song about the loss of a love and the things remembered from it. This song will certainly resonate with those who have loved and lost someone during their lives.
In the song Dave, Jackson sings about how Dave lives a nice simple existence, working just enough to get by in life in a cave under the hill and questions why you and I race around the world, and in Jacksons words, “chasing the perfect crime” when is it really just a waste of our time? Thought provoking, and I’m sure there are many people who wish for a simpler, less complicated existence in their life as Jackson describes in this song.
In “Friend Better” Jackson sings about 2 friends with one giving advice saying, “listen to what the wise man said, lover good, friend better”. It’s a situation many people would understand and how things may have got messed up during a relationship but that at some time you just have to let it all go and move on. Jackson sings it in a non-judgemental way of explaining that your friend will always be there for you while your lover may not.
“Strange Land” starts off with Jackson singing of wandering through the City of Light which is, in fact, Paris and working out if it is a strange land or in fact is he the stranger and should he stay or go. He sings of getting lost in the streets and looking for somewhere to have a toast and bars full of ghosts. It’s a situation that many people may find themselves in when traveling or even in a place they know well but over the years has changed. The song contains some haunting piano through it, giving it a lost soul kind of feeling, which suits it so well.
Big Black Cloud may sound like a weather song and the intro into the song certainly sounds thunderstorm like but reading the lyrics seems to indicate it’s a deeper song about rejection and always being told no. The piano is solid throughout the song giving it that foreboding feeling.
Fabulously Absolute is a trip back to Jackson’s punk influence with the song talking about not fitting in anywhere and always being wrong. He sings the lines “tell me what I want, tell me what I feel” and then sarcastically says “you’re so fabulously absolute”. Its fast beat song with great drums and keyboards with Jackson rhyming his way through the lyrics.
The distinctive Joe Jackson voice is still clear throughout the album and really stacks up well for a man who has been singing for over 40 years. He is touring this album in North America and Britain in 2019 and it would be great to see him tour Australia. The album will definitely appeal to Joe Jackson fans and fans of that genre of music in general and with basically his original band it is an album well worth listening too.