Album

It's no surprise that Album leads off with the biting "Fake Friends," a rant against the hangers-on who invariably accompany fame, nor that the most insistent line in "The French Song" is the repeated phrase "I am what I am." After all, you don't get hurtled from cult status to the top of the charts without enduring a certain amount of stress. Yet the most striking thing about Album is that, by and large, it ignores the success of its platinum predecessor, 1981's I Love Rock and Roll, and continues on the course set by Joan Jett's debut, Bad Reputation.

Just as the postglitter raunch of Bad Reputation evolved into the semimetal crunch of Rock and Roll, Album finds the Blackhearts' sound refined even further. This time around, the stylistic reference point is early-Seventies Rolling Stones, as evinced by the chugging rhythm-guitar hooks of "Secret Love" and "Coney Island Whitefish" or the punchy horn charts that top "The French Song" and "Handyman." But Jett and the Blackhearts retain their own identity throughout; no matter how much the ending of "Handyman" may recall Exile on Main Street, for example, its sound clearly belongs to this band. Nowhere is this clearer than on the Blackhearts' cover of "Everyday People," in which they harmonize well enough to survive comparisons to the Sly Stone original yet still manage to make the sound entirely their own.

But although such touches make this Jett's most consistent album to date, there's nothing here that stands out the way the title tracks on I Love Rock and Roll and Bad Reputation did. (Is that why they called it Album?) In addition, several of the LP's potential high points are fumbled by Jett's inelegant singing (in particular, "Handyman"). None of this is enough to make Album a disappointment, but it doesn't make a very strong argument for Jett as a major talent, either.

From The Archives Issue 749: December 12, 1996