Joe Jackson Band Volume IV

Remember Look Sharp, I'm the Man and Beat Crazy? Joe certainly does. His late '70s entry into the public eye as part of the UK punk-inspired pub rock scene that brought us Graham Parker and Elvis Costello is on his mind again. Reuniting with the band he worked with on his first three albums, Jackson toured the UK in 2002 and recorded all new songs for Volume IV. Of course you can never really go back and capture the pent-up intensity and snarky swagger of youth but there's certainly nothing wrong with working in a standard rock band format again. In fact, Volume IV doesn't sound much different from what you might expect Jackson to be writing in 2003. Except for the simplified instrumentation and a couple ska-inflected throwback tracks like "Thugz R Us and "Take It Like A Man," this release isn't so far removed from Jackson's recent pop output on Night and Day II or Heaven and Hell. Even the band is only part novelty, since bassist Graham Maby has continued to work with Jackson over the years and only guitarist Gary Sanford and drummer Dave Houghton are new to the recent mix. This is really just another conceptual framework to inspire Jackson's writing. Jackson has always been a big fan of the themed albums, originally departing the rock format for big band swing (Jumpin' Jive), jazz-flavoured lounge (Night and Day, Body and Soul) and symphonic self-indulgence (Will Power, Night Music, Symphony No. 1). So why not return to his old friends on guitar, bass and drums? Well, maybe there's nothing that will rocket up the charts like it was 1979 but standouts including "Awkward Age" and "Dirty Martini" are sure to keep long-time fans fully pumped. Joe Jackson has always been a great melodic songwriter and if it takes a trip back to the old 'hood to get the gears turning, we're all the better for it. (Rykodisc)